2014 Hugo Winners

This Weekly Read offers up samples from this year's Hugo Award winners. Because everyone needs good sci-fi. Enjoy! 

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Equoid by Charles Stross
The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal

An Exercise in Latitudes

I am a die hard Michael Crichton fan. His works of accessible (dare I say "beach read") science fiction open a door into a genre that some readers hesitate to tread. Crichton not only created this door but flung it wide open, gesturing all readers to come in and explore the type of fiction that could grow from scientific interests. His work is universally known, critically acclaimed, and just darn good reading.

When I saw Pirate Latitudes on the shelf, posthumously published, I hesitated. Pirates? I'm a bit surprised, but okay. Then, halfway through the book, a terrible thing happened. I got bored. I put the book down and nearly forgot about it, something that has never happened with any of his previous works.

But I am nothing if not a dedicated reader, so I read through til the end. The novel let no remarkable impact, no overwhelming impressions. It lacked the polish and energy of his other works and felt incomplete. Perhaps it was a first draft, or an idea he never truly fell in love with, which is why it never fell upon store shelves until now. My final impression was that it felt more like a writing exercise, albeit a very good one by a phenomenally talented author, than a complete final draft.

Now there is word that the story, even before published, will be adapted for the big screen and by Spielberg, no less. The movie has been in production since before the book was released in 2009, but with Spielberg and Koepp (screenwriter for Jurassic Park and The Lost World) involved, it's more than likely going to end up on the big screen.

New Harry Potter Short Story

It's true! As part of her growing HP-related literature, JK Rowling has released a new short story about the wizarding world, told by everyone's favorite rotten-to-the-core reporter Rita Skeeter.
You can find the whole story at Today.com, but enjoy this excerpt:
Dumbledore’s Army Reunites at Quidditch World Cup Final
By the Daily Prophet’s Gossip Correspondent, Rita Skeeter
There are celebrities – and then there are celebrities. We’ve seen many a famous face from the wizarding world grace the stands here in the Patagonian Desert – Ministers and Presidents, Celestina Warbeck, controversial American wizarding band The Bent-Winged Snitches – all have caused flurries of excitement, with crowd members scrambling for autographs and even casting Bridging Charms to reach the VIP boxes over the heads of the crowd.
But when word swept the campsite and stadium that a certain gang of infamous wizards (no longer the fresh-faced teenagers they were in their heyday, but nevertheless recognisable) had arrived for the final, excitement was beyond anything yet seen. As the crowd stampeded, tents were flattened and small children mown down. Fans from all corners of the globe stormed towards the area where members of Dumbledore’s Army were rumoured to have been sighted, desperate above all else for a glimpse of the man they still call the Chosen One.

Accepting Weekly Read Submissions

Dear Readers,
    Currently, we are accepting submissions from indie authors for our Weekly Read short stories. Short stories can be any genre, previously published, never published, really anything you think we'd find delightful. The Dying Book Affair holds no first publishing rights, first online print rights, etc. We are simply looking to share dynamite short stories with voracious readers. If you have a work you'd like to submit, details are below.

Happy reading!
TDBA editors

Genres accepted: All
Manuscript chapters: Accepted as long as they function as a short story
Word count: No more than 1,500 per story
Multiple submissions: Yes, but each story should be sent in a separate email
Closing date: 9/1/14
Submissions sent to: thedyingbookaffair@gmail.com, subject line Weekly Read Submission

I Saw You on the Manhattan-Bound Brooklyn Q Train

This delightful short story comes from an inventive missed connection found on Craigslist. It is beautiful in its simplicity and lyrical in its musings. Enjoy.
I saw you on the Manhattan-bound Brooklyn Q train.

I was wearing a blue-striped t-shirt and a pair of maroon pants. You were wearing a vintage red skirt and a smart white blouse. We both wore glasses. I guess we still do.

You got on at DeKalb and sat across from me and we made eye contact, briefly. I fell in love with you a little bit, in that stupid way where you completely make up a fictional version of the person you're looking at and fall in love with that person. But still I think there was something there.

Several times we looked at each other and then looked away. I tried to think of something to say to you -- maybe pretend I didn't know where I was going and ask you for directions or say something nice about your boot-shaped earrings, or just say, "Hot day." It all seemed so stupid.

At one point, I caught you staring at me and you immediately averted your eyes. You pulled a book out of your bag and started reading it -- a biography of Lyndon Johnson -- but I noticed you never once turned a page.

My stop was Union Square, but at Union Square I decided to stay on, rationalizing that I could just as easily transfer to the 7 at 42nd Street, but then I didn't get off at 42nd Street either. You must have missed your stop as well, because when we got all the way to the end of the line at Ditmars, we both just sat there in the car, waiting.

I cocked my head at you inquisitively. You shrugged and held up your book as if that was the reason.

Still I said nothing.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Book: Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, and Other Things that Happened
Author: Allie Brosh

Why I Read It: The Under 30 Author square on my #ReadingBingo. Plus I love her blog. Ordered this book in the mail and couldn't wait for it to get here.
First Line: It seems like there should be some sort of introduction to this.

First Impression: Yay! It's here!
Last Impression: Hmm....a lot of this was already on her blog. And it loses its edge in the printed form. Sad day.
Overall – 4 Heart Skipped a Beat Turns out, her work doesn't translate all that well to the printed page. If this was a rating on her blog, 5. A rating on how funny she is, 6. But as a book, it just didn't hit all the right notes. Pacing is so important in humor and seeing the hilariously awesome images before she's fully built up why they are hilariously awesome kills the moment.
Characters – 5 The dogs are the best characters ever, especially the Simple Dog. And the Alot is grammar joke gold.
Story – 3 Repeated content from much of her blog. Great stuff, just not new.
Narration – 5 She builds stories so very, very well. Comedic genius.

Read Again? Yeah. Mostly the dog ones.

Tell Others to Read? The book? No. The blog? Abso-frickin-lutely.

Excerpt: I can't. The images are mandatory in this situation. Thankfully, many excerpts (and really most of the book content) can be found here: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/

Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Book: Let's Pretend This Never Happened
Author: Jenny Lawson

Why I Read It: #ReadingBingo - Filling in the "Funny" square.
First Line: Call me Ishmael.

First Impression: Witty, biting humor. It can come off as overly snarky if read in a bad mood, however.
Last Impression: Quite the crazy life she's had and the sense of humor to survive/retell it.
Overall – 4 Heart Skipped a Beat It was quite funny. Her sense of humor requires a particular mood from the reader and the novelty of her life wears off, but she still is a delightful narrator and you genuinely care about her and her wacky life.
Characters – 4 The people in the book come alive on the page and it is easy to envision her crazy father actually waking them up with a disembodied squirrel puppet.  
Story – 5 I wavered here because the book wavered. At times it was a 6, others it was a 3. Overall, her life is too strange to be fiction and fun to journey through.
Narration – 5 Her voice reaches the female audience quite well, but may not translate as well to the male audience. Check out the excerpt, which is taken from the first page of the book, to get a sense of what I mean. The rest of the novel continues in much the same direction. But, being a woman, her narration and style resonated with me. Thus the rating.

Read Again? No. I know the punchline/crazy experience already. But I enjoyed it.

Tell Others to Read? Every woman should read this, and open-minded guys as well. It's exceptionally funny, but some of her best moments are geared toward the females. 

Excerpt:...it makes a way more respectable beginning than the sentence I'd originally written, which was about how I'd just run into my gynecologist at Starbucks and she totally looked right past me like she didn't even know me. And so I stood there wondering whether that's something she does on purpose to make her clients feel less uncomfortable, or whether she genuinely didn't recognize me without my vagina. Either way, it's very disconcerting when people who've been inside your vagina don't acknowledge your existence. Also, I just want to clarify that I don't mean "without my vagina" like I didn't have it with me at the time. I just meant that I wasn't, you know...displaying it while I was at Starbucks. That's probably understood, but I thought I should clarify, since it's the first chapter and you don't know that much about me. So just to clarify, I always have my vagina with me. It's like my American Express card. (In that I don't leave home without it. Not that I use it to buy stuff with.)

Reading Bingo

This delightful reading bingo image was circulating the social media sites and I found it particularly inspiring. What a fun way to mix up your reading habit and get through all those books in your TBR list!
Of course other books will be reviewed here, but this seemed like a fun way to read those books currently sitting on TDBA shelves. The only rule was that each book had to be one I've never read. This is my personal list, so it is very science fiction, science, and nonfiction heavy, as those are some of my favorite genres. However, I encourage you to dig through your personal library and actual libraries near you to fill out your reading bingo.
So, without further ado, here is the list!

500+ pages - We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen
Under 30 author - Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh
One word title - Nightfall by Isaac Asimov
1st by fav author - Pebble in the Sky by Isaac Asimov
Book a friend loves - Enchantment by Orson Scott Card
Forgotten classic - War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
Non-human characters - Beyond Human: Robots and Cyborgs by Benford and Malatre
Short stories - American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell
Heard @ online - Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
That scares me - Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Became a movie - The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Funny - Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
Bestselling - A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
10+ years old - 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
Published this year - Leaving the Sea: Stories by Ben Marcus
Female author - My Beautiful Genome: Exposing Our Genetic Future, One Quirk at a Time by Lone Frank
Different continent - Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Based on a true story - Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
2nd in series - The Dark Monk: A Hangman's Daughter Tale by Oliver Potzsch
Number in title - Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
Mystery - Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Nonfiction - Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Bottom of pile - Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton
Blue cover - Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller

Free Space - Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Seaand of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools,Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them by Donovan Hohn

Micromegas by Voltaire

On a planet revolving around the star Sirius there lived a young man of great intelligence, whose acquaintance I had the honor of making during his recent visit to our little anthill. He was called Micromegas, an appropriate name for great people. He had a stature of eight leagues, or 24,000 geometrical paces of five feet each, or 120,000 statute feet.
We earthmen have an average stature hardly more than five feet--one pace--so Mr. Micromegas' world must in turn have a circumference 24,000 times greater than our little Earth. Nothing in nature is simpler, more a matter of course. The dominions of certain potentates in Germany or Italy, around which you can walk in half an hour, compared with the empires of Turkey, Russia, or China can give but a faint idea of the vast disparity Nature has set between different orders of being throughout the universe.

Given his Excellency's height, any sculptor or painter would agree his waist should, proportionally, be about 50,000 feet around. His nose being one third the length of his handsome face, and his handsome face being one-seventh the height of his handsome body, it follows that the Sirian's nose is some 5,714 statute feet long.
His mind rivals the most cultivated among us; he knows many things, some of which are his own inventions. He had not yet reached his 250th year, and was studying, as was customary at his age, at the most famous school on the planet, when he solved 50 propositions of Euclid--18 more than Blaise Pascal, who, after having, according to his sister's account, solved 32 for his own amusement, became a pretty fair geometer, and a very poor metaphysician.
When Micromegas was about 450 years old, and already passing out of childhood, he dissected, with the aid of powerful microscopes, many little insects less than 100 feet in diameter; he wrote an interesting book about them, which got him into trouble.  
Creative Commons License
This work by H.E. Saunders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.