Stoker Nominee “Reasons I Hate my Big Sister” by Gwendolyn Kiste shines with sisterly love / El cuento nominado al premio Stoker, “Reasons I Hate my Big Sister” de Gwendolyn Kiste, brilla con amor fraternal

stokerawardnom-lgNote: I’m trying to post reviews on as many of the short fiction nominees for the Bram Stoker Award as possible before the winners are named April 30th at StokerCon 2017, but I cannot promise to get to all. The full list of short fiction nominees can be found here, including links to those stories available online.

“Reasons I Hate my Big Sister” by Gwendolyn Kiste is told from the point of view of the unnamed younger sister in a family whose elder daughter is inexplicably shedding her skin and  transforming into something other than human. It’s a fine example of what Mercedes Yardley calls “whimsical horror”. It’s not silly horror, not juvenile, but it is tender.

Our narrator numbers her complaints against her older sister, Elise, and harbors the resentments common to younger siblings. She is young, jealous and petty, but the reader immediately grasps how insubstantial these complaints are. The narrator’s love and admiration for Elise become more apparent as Elise becomes less human and other humans in the story become more monstrous.

Only siblings, and especially adolescent siblings, can truly appreciate the forces that both repel and bind us to one another during transformation, and Kiste does a super job of conveying that in this short tale. Kiste doesn’t ask too much from the reader. This is a simple and straightforward story that is well written. The ending is heroic. It’s a story I will be happily sharing with teenagers in my orbit.

This story appears in the wonderful anthology Nightscript II, edited by C.M. Muller and published by Chthonic Matter. Continue reading

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“Things with Beards” by Sam J. Miller–a short story bursting at the seams / “Things with Beards” de Sam J. Miller – un cuento lleno a reventar

Note: This is the second review of a short story nominated for the 2017 Nebula Awards. You can see all the nominees here, and my earlier review of “This is Not a Wardrobe Door” by A. Merc Rustad here.

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Sam J. Miller (and friend?)

So here’s the short version of “Things with Beards” by Sam J. Miller: Protagonist Jimmy (Jim?) McReady has returned to New York in the summer of 1983 after a mysterious end to his work at a research station in Antarctica. He meets an old friend who’s involved with an underground group bent on payback for the cops harassing and abusing blacks. McReady is gay and white, and he identifies with his friend’s political agenda despite his Irish family, some of whom are cops. During the course of the story McReady discovers that he and his friend Hugh are infected with what is called at that time — the “gay cancer”. He also intuits that he is inhabited by a monster of some sort that claims great stretches of his memory and also attacks and inhabits practically everyone with whom McReady comes into close contact.

No, this is not a novel. It’s a freaking short story. Continue reading

“This is Not a Wardrobe Door” by A. Merc Rustad is also not a story

Note: This is the first review of the 2017 Nebula Award nominees for short fiction. You can see the whole list here.

Well, here I am, starting off these reviews of all the nominated short stories published in 2016, and I’m going to irritate some readers and writers right away. This was not my intention, but I was really disappointed by “This is Not a Wardrobe Door” by A. Merc Rustad. It’s full of lovely images, and it might become a story–it might be part of a longer story–but it is not a story by itself.

Backing up, here’s the tale in a nutshell: Two friends, living in two different worlds, are seeking ways to return to each other. Ellie, the girl living in a world that seems to be the world as we know it, is particularly interested in re-entering her friend Zera’s world, which is quite fantastic and colorfully imagined. Continue reading