it's like a bookclub, but everyone has a hard time finishing sentences
November 11, 2014 1:49 PM   Subscribe

My friends and I have found that we really like getting high and talking about books we've read recently, and we've decided to make it a Thing. We're having trouble finding more books to read.

We've been doing it sorta casually over the last few months, because it happened that a lot of us were reading the same books at the same time, and we were dying to talk about them. The big hits so far have been Greg Egan (gregan!), China Mieville (Embassytown, the City and the City), Ted Chiang, and Single Bit Error (Ken Liu). The next thing we're planning to read is N.K. Jemisin (Killing Moon), but after that, we're out of ideas.

What we're looking for: short stories over novels, but we'll try either; probably fantasy/scifi/speculative fiction that's at least a bit optimistic, or at least not dystopian; authors that have at least Some Clues on social issues; it can be idea-driven, even at the expense of characterization (see gregan). In a perfect world, it'd skew a bit away from american straight white cis male authors on at least some axes.
posted by you could feel the sky to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie. Space opera that's doing a bunch of interesting things on several levels. It has a sequel that's even better, too!
posted by restless_nomad at 1:53 PM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

You might like Nina Kiriki Hoffman. I'm a fan of A Fistful of Sky in particular.

(Ancillary Sword is the sequel; the first one is Ancillary Justice. Both are great.)
posted by dorque at 1:56 PM on November 11, 2014

This doesn't cross off everything on your checklist, but the first thing that came to mind was Brown Girl In The Ring, by Nalo Hopkinson.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:57 PM on November 11, 2014

Trout Fishing in America - Richard Brautigan
posted by trbrts at 2:05 PM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've been enjoying Hieroglyph for optimistic short stories recently. Lots to talk about (and to argue about!) in it.
posted by AmandaA at 2:05 PM on November 11, 2014

I think you'd all do very well to dive deep into Monsieur Caution's recent, excellent FPP about the short fiction of Yoon Ha Lee.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:09 PM on November 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I posted an FPP about Yoon Ha Lee the other day, and several stories there meet your criteria: "The Contemporary Foxwife" and "The Pirate Captain's Daughter" for sure, maybe "A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel," "The Territorialist," "Architectural Constants," and "The Inferno" as well. The others are a minefield of heavier, non-optimistic stuff, but a few of those have semi-positive outcomes too.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 2:10 PM on November 11, 2014

Haha, this idea is delightful. My contribution would be Stephen Chapman's The Troika - it's about a Jeep, a Mexican woman, and a brontosaurus making their way through an endless desert. Reading it feels kind of like being high even when you're not. It's not a short story, but it is a fast read so it could work for you guys. Have fun!
posted by DingoMutt at 2:20 PM on November 11, 2014

If you do indeed like Calvino, I also suggest Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavic.

Kathy Acker would go well with the "high" part since she's cyberpunk and also with the part about someone who seems to have a good grip on social issues and is not a cis white male. All her stuff is great, and she has awesome novels (Don Quixote and Blood and Guts in High School are especially lovely).
posted by mermaidcafe at 2:21 PM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hell yes to everything Nalo Hopkinson - she is a gift. Not only as an author, but as an editor. The following collections are all worth checking out:

- Mojo: Conjure Stories
- Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction
- So Long Been Dreaming Postcolonial Science Fiction & Fantasy

Ursula K. Le Guin's stories can be life changing.

- The Wind's Twelve Quarters
- The Compass Rose
- The Birthday of the World

Kij Johnson is well worth checking out: At the Mouth of the River of Bees

As is Kevin Brockmeier: View From the Seventh Layer

And Haruki Murakami is always good for a little mind-bending: The Elephant Vanishes

But really: if you truly want some short stories that will turn your brain inside out, please see Jorge Luis Borges. Especially Ficciones.


Upon preview: Yes! I was also about to list Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. You may also enjoy his t Zero and Cosmicomics.
posted by jammy at 2:25 PM on November 11, 2014

The Martian.
posted by Obscure Reference at 2:28 PM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes to Brautigan and Calvino and Borges (hi jammy!). I think you'd also enjoy

- George Saunders Pastoralia - weird but not too weird. Not really scifi. Slightly fantastical
- Dangerous Laughter by Steven Millhauser - same thing. Rewards close reading.
- Future Primitive: The New Ecotopias a collection by Kim Stanley Robinson - some of the stories are excellent and hit all your points. Book itself is big and unwieldy
- Worldmakers: SF adventures in terraforming by Gardner Dozois - same as above, mostly good stories though
- Star Diaries by Stanislaw Lem (you know, the Solaris guy)
- something by Angela Carter - Nine Profane Pieces might be good.
posted by jessamyn at 2:59 PM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Jim Dodge, Stone Junction. It's subtitle is 'an alchemical potboiler'.
posted by snorkmaiden at 3:05 PM on November 11, 2014

Speech Sounds - Octavia Butler.
The Sentinel - Arthur C. Clarke
Burning Chrome - Gibson
posted by bz at 3:15 PM on November 11, 2014

I'm for some reason thinking of a lot of vaguely surreal titles that I remember from the early 90s.

The City, Not Long After - Pat Murphy. A future San Francisco after a mostly undescribed disaster in which all the creative spirits and misfits remain, and how they respond to the threat of a militaristic dictator.

Pretty much anything by Lisa Goldstein; a lot of her earlier ones are now out of print but available as ebooks. The Dream Years, Dark Cities Underground or Tourists particularly.

Patricia Geary's Strange Toys would be perfect but looks like it's out of print in any format. Secondhand copies are pretty plentiful.

There Are Doors - Gene Wolfe. Perhaps I read it at an impressionable age, but I went round hoping I would inadvertently slip through one of these doors into the world so like ours but not. Again, out of print but available as an ebook or common secondhand.

They're all somewhat surreal books which have as much in common with magical realism as they do with speculative fiction, frequently with aspects that involve perceiving different parallel realities that I think would be enormous fun to read/discuss while stoned.
posted by Athanassiel at 4:03 PM on November 11, 2014

Best answer: I could probably compile a list of over a thousand recommendations for you, but I'm just going to go with these off the top of my head. I see you've already encountered Greg Egan - if so, you definitely want to check out Ted Chiang. I have to warn you that many of these are not overly cheerful.

"The Brief History Of The Dead" - Kevin Brockmeier

"The Lonely Songs Of Laren Dorr" - George R. R. Martin

"Sandkings" - George R. R. Martin

Tuf Voyaging - George R. R. Martin (a 'fix-up' novel that details the journeys of Haviland Tuf, Ecological Engineer, and his 30 kilometer starship, The Ark).

"Unaccompanied Sonata" - Orson Scott Card

"Pilgrimage To Earth" - Robert Sheckley

"Hell Is The Absence Of God" - Ted Chiang

"The Lifecycle of Software Objects" by Ted Chiang (really, anything by Ted Chiang).

"Dinosaurs" - Walter Jon Williams

"The Fluted Girl" - Paolo Bacigalupi (may be found in his anthology Pump Six and Other Stories, which is well worth checking out).

"Rodney Parish For Hire" - Harlan Ellison and Joe L. Hensley

"Faith Of Our Fathers" - Philip K. Dick

"Apt Pupil" - Stephen King

"A !Tangled Web" - Joe Haldeman

"The God Engines" - John Scalzi

Stations of the Tide - Michael Swanwick

The Peace War and Marooned In Realtime - Vernor Vinge

Sandman Slim - Richard Kadry

Blood Music - Greg Bear

Eon - Greg Bear

The Choirboys - Joseph Wambaugh

Kaleidoscope Century - John Barnes

Stars In My Pocket Like Grains Of Sand - Samuel Delany (a stretch goal; but you'll talk about this book for years).

Doorways in the Sand - Roger Zelazny

Lord of Light - Roger Zelazny

The Fermata - Nicholson Baker (NSFW!)

Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, and The Rise of Endymion - Dan Simmons

When Heaven Fell - William Barton (a stretch goal)
posted by doctor tough love at 4:20 PM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Martian.

Got this ready to roll on my reader, looking forward to starting it when I finish Studs Terkel.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:37 PM on November 11, 2014

Station Eleven.
posted by rtha at 5:12 PM on November 11, 2014

Station Eleven.

I really, really liked Station Eleven. But I was mostly sober. Mostly.
posted by kbanas at 5:22 PM on November 11, 2014

Cinco de Mayo
Don't let the goofy cover art fool you. This is a really cool book, well imagined.
posted by LauraJ at 6:34 PM on November 11, 2014

This is a book that I always like to recommend to people, but I have a feeling it would be a particularly good fit here: Sum: Forty Tales of the Afterlives, by David Eagleman. In it, Eagleman posits 40 different theories about what the after life might be like and what great things or horrible things might await us. Some of them are essays, some are written as straight fiction. Some of them are mind-blowing, some are funny, some are silly, a couple of them are boring. But even if you hit a boring one, I don't think any of them are more than 4 pages in length, so it's a quick, quick read. I think it would be a lot of fun to discuss at your club.
posted by stennieville at 12:36 AM on November 12, 2014

Is Margaret Atwood too dystopian?
posted by mskyle at 6:27 AM on November 12, 2014


(Seconding Lord of Light and Ancillary Justice too. And obvs all Le Guin.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:23 AM on November 12, 2014

Response by poster: Oh wow! Lots of excellent-looking books! If anyone has any more recommendations, we're especially looking for recent female authors, but everything sounds really cool so far. If anyone has any suggested pairings (like Left Hand of Darkness + Ancillary Justice, Cage of Zeus, or Shadow Man; or Single Bit Error and Hell is the Absence of God), that'd be even more excellent.

We've suddenly gone from not-enough-books to too-many, but I think this isn't a problem. Thanks!
posted by you could feel the sky at 10:20 AM on November 12, 2014

Best answer: (D'oh, after I posted, I saw that you'd already encountered Ted Chiang).


"The Brief History Of The Dead", "Hell Is The Absence Of God", "Faith Of Our Fathers", and "The God Engines"

Lord of Light and Creatures of Light and Darkness

Stars In My Pocket Like Grains Of Sand and The Fermata (aka "can science fiction be really dirty?")
posted by doctor tough love at 10:31 AM on November 12, 2014

It's not anywhere NEAR sci-fi or a dystopian novel, but when I was in a book club this book was the one none of us could stop talking about. I still think about it

Little Children by Tom Perrota
posted by JenThePro at 2:40 PM on November 12, 2014

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