My award-eligible works in 2019

A lot of exciting literature was published last year. I’m eager to see what gets nominated for awards and I have some ideas about what I want to nominate.

As for myself, I have only two works eligible for an award nomination for 2019:

Interference, a science fiction novel, published by Tor Books. This is the sequel to Semiosis.

“In the Weeds”, a science fiction short story (2700 words), in the anthology Dying Earths: Sixteen Stories from the Ends of Times,, published by

Do not feel obliged to consider them, of course. I’m posting this for the record — but I hope to encourage you to think about what you found outstanding in 2019. What deserves notice and recognition?

What god believes in you?


Nike, the goddess of victory. Sculpture from a bronze vessel, probably made in a Greek city of southern Italy, c. 490 BCE, in the British Museum.

You may sometimes be asked about your religious faith — that is: What god do you believe in? That’s a good question, but I’d like to propose a different one: What god believes in you?

It may be that the gods get a choice, too. Your choice and divine choice may or may not coincide. Whether you want it or not, Allah may be showering you with mercy and compassion. Jesus may have saved your soul. A variety of other gods may be trying hard to show you truth and enlightenment.

Or you might have attracted the attention of lesser-known gods.

The Roman god Fascinus represented the divine phallus and can protect you from the evil eye and other forms of malicious enchantment. The Roman Empire fell, but gods are eternal, so Fascinus may be hovering around you, facing potential bad luck and nullifying it before it can do you harm. (Don’t ask how.)

The Maya gods of the underworld try to bring you death. Ahalpuh, for example, will cause infection and pus. However, the Maya underworld gods are lesser gods. They were defeated, and their powers were curtailed. They may come for you, but you have the power to thwart their plans.

Other gods can bring you fertility, war, safe travel, victory, greed, earthquakes, or even tempt you to suicide. If you feel that presence, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255. This is another lesser god that you can successfully defy.

Our world has a lot of gods. Which one(s) would be attracted to you, whether you would welcome their attention or not — and why? This question may be not just about their belief in you, but in your own beliefs about yourself.

Goodreads review: “The Last Human” by Zack Jordan

The Last HumanThe Last Human by Zack Jordan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Full disclosure: I received an advance copy from the publisher to see if I’d like to write a blurb for the cover. It sounded like a fun book, and it was, so here’s my blurb: “Brimming with sly humor, intelligence, and big ideas.”

Let me say a bit more about the novel. You can read the summary at Goodreads or elsewhere, and it’s accurate. A young human finds out why she’s the last of her kind, which leads her on a long, strange adventure to learn what she can do about it.

I especially enjoyed the way this book treats “intelligence” and the relationship between different levels of intelligence. Our young human has an AI assistant who isn’t as smart as she is, and she must also deal with beings, machines, and AIs who are infinitely smarter than she is. Every one of them wants something: perhaps to be as helpful as possible, perhaps to solve its own problems, perhaps to outsmart and control the lesser beings around it, or perhaps just to keep things working properly.

This is a new take on the technological singularity proposed by Vernor Vinge and others about what will happen when artificial super-intelligence advances beyond human understanding and control. In this book, it’s not the end of civilization, which Elon Musk has feared. Instead, it takes a turn that Zack Jordan makes logical, terrifying, and comforting at the same time. And he tells it in a way that from time to time might make you laugh.

View all my reviews

Fires in Australia, and one small way to help

Via Sherwood Smith, I’ve learned that Australian author Gillian Polack has been evacuated due to the fires.

What can you do to help? Gillian says this:

“What you can do that takes no money at all is suggest to people that they buy things i.e. keep income going even as the world falls to pieces. I counted ten Australian spec fic writers and artists affected by this yesterday and it’s about 100 people, so buying books or art from people who live in or near bushfire zones would help. Find your favourite writers (or writers who have lost everything — Mirren Hogan and Sulari Gentill are the ones on this list so far — Sulari Gentill is a particularly good writer and she is from Batlow — the whole town was wiped out yesterday by a 150 km front of fire).

“Suggesting that people buy books or art gives Australian creators income to come home to and a way of getting financially through a period when (to use local dialect, so this does not mean what it means in the US) bugger all can be done, workwise. Reading our books, finding favourite works on etsy, checking out publishers (IFWG, Shooting Star, and Twelfth Planet Press are the three small publishers whose writers are most affected so far) is a way of bringing money into an economy that is suddenly wrecked and a way of keeping friends of friends able to buy food. (I’ve been thinking about this a lot — community is what’s getting Australia through every day, so community from the rest of the world will help the good end of the impossible).”

As encouragement, here’s my Goodreads review of her book Lang[dot]doc 1305:

Langue[dot]doc 1305Langue[dot]doc 1305 by Gillian Polack

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s a simple plan: A university team will travel back in time to 1305 France, hide out in a cave, take scientific measurements of the environment and ecology for nine months, then come back. The members will avoid contact with natives and make no changes in the course of history.

What could go wrong?

Even if the team had boasted of the discipline and leadership of a NASA project, a lot could have gone wrong. Instead, the team is made up of bickering and contrarian academics with an active disdain for history and the lone historian on the team.

Meanwhile, the local townsfolk have noticed the strange people living “under the hill” and can’t decide if they’re fairies, demons, or simply bothersome and probably dangerous.

As the months go on, everyone gets too frustrated in one way or another, and things go very wrong.

The book offers quiet humor, a deep understanding of academia and the Middle Ages, and characters to remember.

Reading at Tangelo on January 9

TangeloI’ll be participating in the Tangelo reading series, held from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, January 9, at The Martin performance space, 2515 W. North Ave., in the West Town neighborhood of Chicago.

I plan to read from Semiosis and share a short essay — about what? I haven’t decided yet.

The event, the 23rd of the Tangelo series, will also feature:
Emma Casey, a writer and performer and maker from Chicago.
Levi Todd, a queer poet and lifelong Chicagoan, working as a healthy relationships educator with youth.
Jitesh Jaggi, a recent immigrant from India who uses storytelling, poetry, dance, and writing to share his narratives.

More information is at the Facebook event page and on Twitter. Free, but reserve your admission. A $5 donation is accepted at the door. Cash bar.