Sweetlings by Lucy Taylor isn’t sweet, but it is satisfying / Sweetlings de Lucy Taylor no es dulce, como su título, pero es satisfactorio

The winter of my discontent with reading material is over. I read “Sweetlings” by Lucy Taylor too fast the first time, but that’s just a sign of good horror. The second reading of this long form fiction nominee for the Bram Stoker Award was even better.

plate-15The world as we know it has already ended. Gone. Washed into the encroaching sea or submerged in inland lakes and swamps. Yet the transformation of the world is not over. Like a tide pool-stranded octopus, human existence on the remaining land is pretty dismal. Evolution seems to have kicked into high gear for all lifeforms, and the boundaries between the sea dwellers and the land dwellers is being erased.

We navigate this world through the eyes of Mir, a teenager who is among the first generation born after the inundation. She has adapted to the new world’s terms enough to keep going, sloughing off the old expectations imposed by civilization and adapting to the new world with the clear-eyed purpose of one who must eat or be eaten. Her mother is gone, having walked into the sea shortly before the story begins, and taking Mir’s baby brother with her. This is hardly remarkable in a settlement of survivors who disappear on a regular basis. Death is all around. All Mir has left is her father, a science teacher and amateur oceanographer, and her boyfriend Jersey, a teenager who has survived the demise of both his parents.

The touching gestures of attraction between Mir and Jersey are very well written–realistic without compromising the scope of the story to dawdle too long over young adult romance. As the scales tip toward the sea dwellers a little faster than Mir and Jersey are ready for, they strike out for the west and the promise of higher and drier land. Continue reading

Final ballot announced for 2017 Bram Stoker Awards

The Horror Writers Association announces the final ballot for the Bram Stoker Awards, which will be presented March 3rd. Check this fantastic reading list for long and short fiction, plus take a look at the nominees in other categories here. Congratulations to one and all!

Superior Achievement in Long Fiction

Superior Achievement in Short Fiction

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

Thank you, SFFW and HWA, for replenishing my list of great short fiction to read and for saving my blog

Drowned in my WIP writing and editing I have once again seriously neglected the blog, but the dearth of new posts is over for now. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFFW) has announced the nominees for the 51st Annual Nebula Awards, to be held in Pittsburgh May 18-21. The full list of nominees published in 2016 can be found here, but in keeping with tradition, my reviews over the next several weeks will focus on the nominees in the short story category, with occasional reviews of some of the novelettes and novellas.

2016 Short Story Nominees

But wait, this is not the only good news for readers like me who have precious little time and want to invest in really good speculative fiction that kind of, sort of fits in the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres. The Horror Writers Association (HWA) also recently announced the Preliminary Ballots for the 2016 Bram Stoker Awards. The awards will be presented aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California on April 29th. Continue reading