Review: A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow

This is fifth review of the Nebula Award nominees in 2019. You can see the full list of short story nominees here. Scroll down for some of the other reviews this year or search by title. 

A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” by Alix E. Harrow is well written and well worth your time to read, but I want to get one small criticism out of the way right up front. The title is totally misleading. There is a compendium, and it plays a critical role at the end, but that is not the point of the story. Also, the arcane tone conveyed by the title doesn’t reflect the contemporary setting of the story subject. Ok, on to larger topics.

The story, in a nutshell, is from the perspective of a librarian who is also a witch (or vice versa). She sees unhappy people in her library from time to time and wants to help them, though there are rules about witch’s not giving people magical information that her kind have compiled over the centuries. In this story, there is a particular youth, an African American boy, who the narrator believes is having a difficult time and is seeking magic in this world and/or a portal to another one. The question is, does the narrator break the rules to help the child or not? Continue reading

A simple tale well told–Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience by Rebecca Roanhorse / Un cuento simple bien contado -Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience de Rebecca Roanhorse

This is the first review of the short stories nominated for the 2017 Nebula Awards. The full list of nominees is here.

There’s nothing terribly original about the premise or plot of “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™” by Rebecca Roanhorse, but do not mistake this observation for an unfriendly critique. Sometimes a tried and true narrative is just the vehicle (or maybe it’s the interface) that you need to tell a good story.

Jesse, the protagonist, works for a business offering “authentic” virtual experiences for paying customers who want to try out “Indian” life. Jesse is an Indian, but not a marketable one. The act he puts on for the customers doesn’t reflect the banality of his actual life. Surviving this irony is so soul-crushing that he immediately gravitates to the first offer of friendship in the unfriendly real world. Not realizing how vulnerable he has made himself, Jesse ends up losing his place in the real world and the virtual one after the false friend turns the reality tables on him. Continue reading