Fiction:
Vulcanization by Nisi Shawl is the awesomest steampunk story ever; Leopold II of Belgian Congo colonialist infamy wants to rid himself of visions of the people he’s victimized, using a strange device. After reading King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild a while back, this story is especially satisfying. Shawl has a steampunk novel coming out in September from Tor: Everfair. I am so excited!!!

Here is my enthusiastic preview of Kings Rising by C.S. Pacat, third in the “Captive Prince” series.

I also read a book for anonymous review.

Fanfiction:
Pantheon by Yahtzee is a really cool AU of X-Men: First Class set in 96 AD in which mutant powers are supposed to be gifts of the various Roman gods; but if that’s so, then why do non-citizens and slaves also possess these powers? And how may they be kept in check? The worldbuilding in this story is a lot of fun, and there are several love stories as well.

My Unshaped Form by atrata, a post-Winter Soldier Natasha Romanov/Bruce Banner story featuring the science of memory, trust, and the beginnings of romance.

I’ve recced this author before and doubtless will again. The Dead Forest by hansbekhart goes into the head of Captain America four days after he’s revived from the ice, when he’s subsumed by alienation, loneliness, confusion, and mourning. Historical detail makes everything more resonant.

And now for something completely different: Blood Sugar Sex Magik by Delphi is a short, delightfully filthy crossover story featuring Severus Snape and John Constantine. NSFW at all, at all. John can always tell when the Professor’s in town. The air in Soho grows heavy and hot and thick, and The Whip–grand old dame of the London sex scene–lights up like a birthday cake for those who have the sight. “Hello, sailor,” the magic-soaked building all but calls to him. “Looking for a good time?”

Life After Narnia by Transposable_Element is two stories, all about Susan Pevensie taking care of business, and mourning, after her family is killed. It’s a meditation on death and grief that really connected with me at several points. Characters from Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series appear as well.

A Song for Ruatha by Aishuu is a Menolly story, set during McCaffrey’s Dragonsinger. Menolly travels to Ruatha Hold for a Gather, and stresses about the special song she’s supposed to write for it amid tensions about the young Lord Holder Jaxom and the dragon he recently Impressed, Ruth. Also has Competent!Sebell and of course Master Robinton, and a surprise Benden Weyr guest.

Radio to the Youth by Scappodaqui is a WWII-era Howling Commandos story from the pov of Jim Morita. As you know, Bob, I adore nifty historical detail, and this story has lots. Also there is a sequel!

The Peggers’ Tale by kinetikatrue, for Sybill is medieval-style poetry about Elinor of Aquitaine and her maid, and Henry Plantagenet, and, well, pegging. It is absolutely brilliant.

Comics:
I read Ghost Volume 1: In the Smoke and Din by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Phil Noto, from Dark Horse, for a panel at Arisia, on Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick. This was apparently a reboot of an older series which I hadn’t read. I enjoyed it, but not enough to pick up the second volume; once the central mystery was solved, I didn’t have enough attachment to the characters. The art was nice, though.

In contrast, I adored Pretty Deadly Volume 1: The Shrike, by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios, from Image. Sometimes I had a little difficulty parsing the lush art, but I loved it anyway, if that makes sense. This is a Western, with a weird and strange mythology and characters whom I found intriguing even when they only had a few lines. Bonus points for multiple female characters and several characters of color. I will definitely read more of this; the collected volume two will be out at the end of May.

Also from Image, One Weird Trick (Sex Criminals 1) by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky is fun. Two characters have the ability to freeze time when they orgasm, so they decide the rob a bank to save a library – the bank where he works, and the library where she works. As you do. The tone is wry, confessional, rueful, affectionate; it reminded me a bit of Phil Foglio’s XXXenophile, though the humor is in a more subdued key. I will read more of this series, as well, after I catch up on some of what I already own.

I finished up the last two volumes of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel that I had – and realized I should have read these first. Oh well. Captain Marvel, Vol. 1: In Pursuit of Flight and Captain Marvel, Vol. 2: Down. I was excited to find Monica Rambeau bantering with Carol Danvers in volume two! I was less excited to realize the story running through these volumes does not conclude in them; the conclusion is in a crossover collection which is, of course, out of print at the moment. Sigh.

In Ms. Marvel Vol. 3: Crushed, Kamala thinks she might be falling in love with a boy even her parents approve of; as you can imagine, things do not go smoothly.

A-Force Presents Vol. 1 is a sampler of first issues featuring female characters: Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel, She-Hulk, Black Widow, Thor, and Squirrel Girl. I didn’t realize it was a sampler when I bought it, so I only got three issues I hadn’t already read. It might be good if you want, well, a sampler of several titles! The first issue of Thor did not in fact feature the female Thor until the last page, which was frustrating; I still don’t know if I’ll like the series or not, as I’ve never been a reader of Thor. Squirrel Girl is adorable, though.