Thursday, February 18, 2021

Naomi Kritzer

It's a weird thing: I first heard of locally based science fiction writer Naomi Kritzer because she also writes astute, reliable assessments of hyperlocal political candidates in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Think school board and city council members. Think Ramsey County judges when there happens to be an opposed incumbent candidate.

Over the years, I've seen her blog posts on these types of candidates shared by people I know on Twitter. I would read them and see how thorough and fair they seemed, not to mention well-written, and while doing that I realized from the other elements on her blog that she was a science fiction writer.

Then last April, I noticed that a book of Kritzer's won the Minnesota Book Award for best Young Adult Novel and I thought, I must read her book. (That same award first led me to Pete Hautman. Need I say more?)

So I got a copy of Catfishing on CatNet, and while I was at it, I also picked up her recent short story collection that appeared to be connected, Cat Pictures Please. Then the two books sat in my house waiting for me to read other things (like the whole Expanse series and Caste). 

But now I know and can recommend: Do it! Read Naomi Kritzer! She will make your life better. 

The novel is worthy of the award it won, and the short stories are almost better. The title story won the Hugo Award, so that's obviously great, but I don't think there was a low point in the whole book. Despite the fact that Kritzer's short stories are about fantastic subjects or settings, she often manages to evoke beautifully resonant mundanity. 

The final story, called "So Much Cooking," was originally published in 2015, but when I started reading it I didn't know that and thought perhaps she had written it in early 2020 because it was about a pandemic just like ours. As I read it, I realized the characters' experience was both worse and better than ours, though. (I know now from her blog that Kritzer's fictional pandemic ended in April of the same year — just a few months long! Wimpy thing. But then again, Trump wasn't president in 2015, either.)

Anyway, if you're on the lookout for some fiction to make you think but also take you away, Naomi Kritzer is worth a read.

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