Note: this is the third review of the World Fantasy Award nominees for short fiction. You can see the list of nominees here and scroll down to find the earlier reviews.
“Little Widow” by Maria Dahvana Headley is a treat from the school of weird fiction. In addition to Nightmare Magazine, the story also appears in the anthology, What the #@&% Is That?, edited by John Joseph Adams and Douglas Cohen, from Saga Press.
Readers are introduced to the story through the eyes of the youngest wife of a religious zealot who’s just organized a mass suicide that he conveniently misses. Not so different from the world we inhabit? Well…it gets a little more bizarre before the end, yet the main characters’ emotional terrain is spot on.
The recently re-named Natalie and her sister wives Reese and Scarlett have been taken in by a couple for no better reason than the availability of spare bedrooms. Their adoptive parents have no real positive qualities noted except for the fact that they don’t ask the girls to go to church, and that’s good enough for the sister wives. The girls are perfectly aware of the oddity of their cult upbringing. On the outside and alone after the deaths of their mothers, it seems at first that their training as “Heaven’s Avengers” is not going to serve them well. Continue reading
Here’s my “spoken book” video for Ray Bradbury Day! If you haven’t posted yet, it’s not too late, no matter what time zone you’re in. Just recite an excerpt of any piece of writing that moves you–fiction or nonfiction, speech or story–and post it online with the hashtag #RayDay. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go here.
Last year, I memorized the opening passage of Deathless by Catherynne Valente, and I intended to memorize some more fiction this year. But the weight of my political worries and activism just overwhelmed this year. I had to go back to my spiritual guide, Mohandas Gandhi.
Note: this is the second review of the World Fantasy Award nominees for short fiction. You can see the list of nominees here.
“Das Steingeschöpf” scratched an itch I didn’t know I had. The tone and narrative style immediately placed me in early 20th century Europe with its quaint depiction of a German village and a young journeyman of sorts just beginning his career. This is no criticism. Unlike so many stories today, G.V. Anderson’s style allowed me to clearly picture the place, the narrator and the fantastic creature, Ambroise, who needs mending. Within the first two paragraphs I was completely immersed in the story.
Frau Leitner from Bavaria had written to request a small restoration—I took the southbound train from Berlin, made two changes, and disembarked at the end of the line in a small town tucked between the pleats of the mountains. A ragged man with a horse-drawn cart was waiting for me. We travelled by lamplight up a steep, icy path to the front door of an old timber chalet.
All was dark and quiet. I jumped down, the snow crackling beneath my weight, and turned to thank the driver. He’d already clicked to the horse and was turning the cart around, grimly avoiding my eye.
Perhaps my appreciation for the author’s descriptions seems a little sentimental. As I said, I didn’t expect the story to move me, but it did. This is a beautiful, melancholy story that captures the fleeting peace between the two world wars and, somehow, a turning point in human consciousness about itself.
Okay, I know that’s a really large claim, but that’s what I felt about it. Let me try to explain. Continue reading
Here we go, folks. Review number one of the World Fantasy Award nominees for short fiction. See the full list here.
In Rachael K. Jone’s short story “The Fall Shall Further the Flight in Me”, readers are invited into a fascinating world where earthbound and skybound beings worship each other without much understanding of the other’s reality. We see the world from the perspective of a young, earthbound holy woman-in-training. There’s a whole lot of sin among the earthbound, or at least that’s what they believe about themselves, for our narrator is describes her training as primarily composed of exercises in self denial and suffering.
The duality of this world is beautifully described in this fantasy that feels like a sketch for a much longer story. Women “step” up and down in the air. The earthbound starve themselves to rise and the skybound eat to fall. But the story’s dualistic vision is not sharpened over the course of the story. The nature of each group of beings is unclear in the beginning and only becomes more ambiguous as the story rolls along. This provides both tension and relief in the story as well as insight on the idea that we may be better off without the labels angel and demon. Continue reading