4 min read

Stone Soup Digest 03.18.22

Amal El-Mohtar, Cruelty, and Hunger

Welcome to the Stone Soup Weekly Digest! This is where I share what I'm up to and some of my favorite things from around the internet. Subscribe to Stone Soup to get this in your inbox every week.

This week, I appeared on Failure to Adapt, a podcast hosted by the brilliant Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Red Scott! We discussed Twilight: Eclipse, and how the film adaptation compares to the novel. I analyzed the trunk capacity of a Volvo for this. Listen if you dare.

Amal El-Mohtar on Ursula K. LeGuin

This excerpt from El-Mohtar’s introduction to Worlds of Exile and Illusion is simply beautiful.

I remember feeling keenly the difference between “Omelas” and everything else I read in the anthology: the colors brighter, the voice clearer, the ending a quiet explosion in the mind. I would return to “Omelas” every few years and find a different story there, and admire its capacity to unmoor my certainties and launch them in new, questing directions.

You can purchase Worlds of Exile and Illusion here.

The Hungry, Hungry, Hungry, Hungry, Hungry Caterpillar

Check out Ben Hed’s comic about a caterpillar that just keeps getting hungrier and hungrier.

Cory Doctorow on Cruelty as a Political Tactic

I found this piece fascinating. I’ve long been interested in the brief appeal of the phrase ‘cruelty is the point’ — and have spent a lot of time trying to determine whether it is simply succinct and accurate, or a thought-terminating cliche. Doctorow’s examination of the way people use cruelty not as an endpoint but as a tactic to gain and maintain power made me start thinking about the power that cruelty has to keep us from pushing back against those who inflict it.

This is the common strain in every conservative moral panic: not just cruelty, but cruelty as punishment for people who insist that they are not born to be ruled, and that they have the right to self-determination: about who they marry, about when they give birth, about their working conditions, about public health.

Kelly Link has won an ardent following for her ability, with each new short story, to take readers deeply into an unforgettable, brilliantly constructed fictional universe. The nine exquisite examples in this collection show her in full command of her formidable powers. In "The Summer People," a young girl in rural North Carolina serves as uneasy caretaker to the mysterious, never-quite-glimpsed visitors who inhabit the cottage behind her house. In "I Can See Right Through You," a middle-aged movie star makes a disturbing trip to the Florida swamp where his former on- and off-screen love interest is shooting a ghost-hunting reality show. In "The New Boyfriend," a suburban slumber party takes an unusual turn, and a teenage friendship is tested, when the spoiled birthday girl opens her big present: a life-size animated doll.

Hurricanes, astronauts, evil twins, bootleggers, Ouija boards, iguanas, The Wizard of Oz, superheroes, the Pyramids . . . These are just some of the talismans of an imagination as capacious and as full of wonder as that of any writer today. But as fantastical as these stories can be, they are always grounded by sly humor and an innate generosity of feeling for the frailty--and the hidden strengths--of human beings. In Get in Trouble, this one-of-a-kind talent expands the boundaries of what short fiction can do.

Nell Young's whole life and greatest passion is cartography. Her father, Dr. Daniel Young, is a legend in the field and Nell's personal hero. But she hasn't seen or spoken to him ever since he cruelly fired her and destroyed her reputation after an argument over an old, cheap gas station highway map.

But when Dr. Young is found dead in his office at the New York Public Library, with the very same seemingly worthless map hidden in his desk, Nell can't resist investigating. To her surprise, she soon discovers that the map is incredibly valuable and exceedingly rare. In fact, she may now have the only copy left in existence . . . because a mysterious collector has been hunting down and destroying every last one--along with anyone who gets in the way.

But why?

To answer that question, Nell embarks on a dangerous journey to reveal a dark family secret and discovers the true power that lies in maps . . .

Add The Cartographers to your tbr here. Order it from your local independent bookseller, or order it via Bookshop.org to support independent booksellers throughout the US and the UK. For international shipping, you can try Barnes & Noble. If you prefer audiobooks, here’s a Libro.fm link. You can also request The Cartographers from your local library — here’s how to get in touch with them. And if you need to order from the Bad River Website, here’s a link that will leverage your order for good.

Kitten Update

The kittens have been spending a lot of time in their carriers lately! we keep their carriers out and connected so they can be a cozy hangout spot. It goes a long way to keeping the carriers from feeling like scary traps when it’s time for us to go someplace. Calamity has always loved vibing in hers, but Bert has started joining her for naps and bathtime.

As you’re probably aware, trans children are under attack across the United States; Ukraine is fighting against a Russian invasion; AAPI communities are facing discrimination and violence. If you’re struggling to figure out how to help, here are some places to start.

If you’re a paying subscriber, come by the Stone Soup Supper Club for our weekly chat! And remember, our Writing Date is tomorrow March 19 at 11am Pacific – you can find the link in the same post. I can’t wait to find out what you’re working on!