World Fantasy Award nominee “Death’s Door Café” by Kaaron Warren / Nominado al Premio Mundial de Fantasía “Death’s Door Café” de Kaaron Warren

Note: This is the fourth review of a nominee for best short story for the World Fantasy Awards. You can find my review of Alyssa Wong’s “The Fisher Queen” here, Kelly Link’s “I Can See Right Through You” here, and Ursula Vernon’s “Jackalope Wives” here. I have also reviewed Kai Ashante Wilson’s nominated novella “The Devil in America” here.

One of the things that surprises me about the World Fantasy Awards is how few of the nominated titles are actually by authors from parts of the world that are not America. This is not a criticism of the quality of the nominees. I’m just saying I expected a more varied field in terms of authors’ backgrounds and orientations than what I’ve found so far.

Having said that, “Death’s Door Café” is by Kaaron Warren, who is Australian, and is set in a cafe known publicly as the Dusseldorf Café, although I cannot swear that the café’s actual location is Germany. The story was published in the anthology Shadows & Tall Trees, issue 6, spring 2014, edited by Michael Kelly and published by Undertow Publications. Continue reading

World Fantasy Award nominee “I Can See Right Through You” by Kelly Link is a clever presentation of a standard ghost story set up / El nominado al Premio Mundial de Fantasía “I Can See Right Through You” de Kelly Link es una presentación ingeniosa del planteamiento típico de un cuento de fantasmas

The short story “I Can See Right Through You” by Kelly Link has not only been nominated for the 2015 World Fantasy Award, it is also one of the stories in her collection Get in Trouble, which was published by Random House early this year. The collection was much heralded in the press, so I bought it and read four of the stories, including the nominee.

Will is an aging actor known for his leading role as a sexy vampire in a film made years earlier. When the story opens he is seeking out Meggie, a former lover and former co-star in their famous hit movie. Meggie is now the host of a ghost-hunting reality show. Will arrives at a supposedly haunted lake side where Meggie’s crew is shooting an episode and trying to find signs of a colony of nudists who disappeared in the 70s. Everyone is carrying on in the nude, believing that they haven’t been able to get any readings on the nudist ghosts because they are scared of showing themselves. Yeah, it’s a wonderfully absurd story set up.

Will knows he’s going to seed and even if he’s not really comfortable with the notion, he is full of self-depreciating humor. Meggie, who he can’t quite admit is the one and only love of his life, seems to have expected him to show up and treats him with the warm dismissal of an ex-lover, further adding to Will’s pathos. Meggie’s current boyfriend Ray (who looks like a younger Will), another medium who doesn’t like Will and a producer who has a crush on him all vie for the reader’s attention. This helps delay the ghostly surprise at the end, but it also dilutes the story’s tension. Continue reading

Dammit, now I have to read Go Set a Watchman

Atticus is a racist.

When the first heralds reviewing Go Set a Watchman reported this about the newly published novel by Harper Lee, I cringed. I thought to myself, this is why the damn book wasn’t published before. Why? Why does To Kill a Mockingbird–a literary gift that so many have cherished–have to be sullied with a sequel like this?

I do not care that Randall Kennedy writes in the New York Times Sunday Book Review: “Go Set a Watchman demands that its readers abandon the immature sentimentality ingrained by middle school lessons about the nobility of the white savior and the mesmerizing performance of Gregory Peck in the film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird.” Just what one expects from that erudite publication–another condescending opinion that delights in its righteousness and utter lack of empathy with readers.

True, Mockingbird is a treasured cultural totem of white Americans. It allowed many white Americans living in the 20th Century to see themselves in a rose-colored light when our social reality was even bleaker than it is today. But this light had and still has value. This light is a gift of fiction because it provided a way to new thinking. A way. A path readers could take that might give them the perspective needed to imagine a better and more inclusive American society. It represented an ideal sense of the potential for social change. Continue reading