Mass Extinction, Scandalous Magazines, and Canine Detectives
Words By F(r)iction Staff
I devoured The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal.
The Calculating Stars follows war pilot and math genius Elma York after a massive meteorite hits the Earth, sparking an extinction event: York quickly figures out that temperatures will plummet for a few years, only to dramatically spike and go on to rise past habitable levels.
I’m a sucker for anything that has a mass apocalypse event in it—and the blinding light that startles York and her husband ticked my boxes. When they rapidly calculated a shockwave half an hour later, I was all over it. When the meteorite slammed into the US East Coast, I wasn’t putting the book down.
Add to that an alternate history space race, intelligent characters who are still human, sexism, racism, anxiety, math, science, history (when not alternate), and a supportive relationship that isn’t the main plot? Yes please.
TCS is a prequel to a piece of short fiction that Kowal wrote; I hadn’t read it and had no idea how TCS ended. The tension provided by sexism and humans who don’t think the world is warming kept me breathless until the end.
One of the best parts for me was that Kowal’s characters knew what they knew. If something was simple to them, like kriah (York is Jewish), the characters mentioned it and moved on—which left me curious and googling everything from religion to history and geography. None of it was necessary to understanding the story, but I wanted to know more. I also really appreciated Kowal’s handling of drama. Secrets were kept, yes. Secrets were discovered. But nothing was handled stupidly because plot required it.
TCS is an effective remark on our time, with Kowal borrowing common twenty-first-century climate change denial arguments to provide a gentle reminder that while we didn’t face an extinction event when getting to the moon in the twentieth century, we could use some of York’s determination and ambition in the twenty-first.
Bitch is an independent quarterly magazine published in Portland, Oregon. Its tagline is “a feminist response to pop culture.” From their scandalous name to their bevy of thoughtful content, Bitch doesn’t pull any punches. Whether you’re looking for independent, feminist, radical thinking in a print magazine, or want to read explicitly political and feminist readings of pop culture on the daily, I think you’ll find Bitch to be critical, mandatory reading. I’ve been reading Bitch Magazine since 2014, and they’re on my mind as of late because they’re in the midst of an enormous fundraiser. Today is the last day to reach their $150,000 goal and #KeepBitchInPrint after 23 years!
I recently read Heart of Barkness which is the latest installment in the long-running Chet and Bernie series. Sometimes, after a marathon of dystopias, violent fantasy worlds, fairy tale retellings, and thrillers…you just need something light and happy. Chet and Bernie always provide that for me while also handing out a healthy dose of drama and intrigue. This dynamic duo’s private investigator adventures are narrated by Chet, whose fresh way of seeing the world makes any tale (tail?!) worth telling.
Oh, I forgot the best part.
Chet’s a dog.
Dog lovers everywhere will completely fall for his innocence, his smarts, the simplicity of his day-to-day in the face of danger and complexity. He loves his Bernie (as he calls him) to the ends of the earth, and Bernie, hapless and endearing yet completely capable and badass, returns the favor in spades. You won’t find a more charming voice anywhere. And you won’t find a more loyal friend than Chet the Jet!