Sarah Pinsker pulls off a magic trick in “The Court Magician”

Here we go with review number one of the six short stories nominated for the Nebula Awards this year. Check out the list here

The Court Magician” by Sarah Pinsker is an almost perfectly circular tale of the pursuit of power, conscience and cruelty. A young boy who is adept at magic tricks and suitably power hungry enters an exclusive and strange tutelage for the privilege of becoming the court magician, but there’s a cost. There is always a cost.

The action of the basic story goes through logical, predictable stages in the magician’s life and resolves at the end almost where the story began. But I said it is an “almost” perfectly circular story because the reader will realize at the end that the unseen narrator has pulled off an impressive sleight of hand. Continue reading

A Nebula-nominated short story with tongue in cheek and arm in mouth

Note: this is the second to last review of the short stories nominated for this year’s Nebula Award. All but one of the other nominees are reviewed in recent posts on this site. The one that is missing is “Sabbath Wine” by Barbara Krasnoff. Check back on May 16th and that review should be up as well. 

I tend to prefer drama over comedies, but right now — after months of marching and protesting the fiasco that is our current government — I need all the humorous stories I can find. “Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station | Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0” by Caroline Yoachim fits the bill. This funny little story is told in second person, and it’s broken up into segments like a decision tree — if you do x, go to y, etc.

The narrator tells of a tragic tale of injury and insult resulting in death on a space station inhabited with fanciful characters who would have been quite at home in the Mos-Eisley Cantina. The reader will recognize the weary endurance that dominates the tale as our narrator goes from room to room in the medical clinic looking for help in a world enslaved by bureaucratic processes.

The story isn’t deep or important, but it made me laugh. Thanks.

Thumbs up and 4.5 stars out of 5.


Nebula short story nominee “Madeleine” wrestles with soul-sapping grief / El cuento nominado a los premios Nébula “Madeleine” lidia con un dolor que llega hasta el alma

This is the fifth review of the 2015 Nebula Award nominees for best short story. Spanish translation below by Daniela Toulemonde.

depressionAs soon as I read the first sentence of Nebula short story nominee “Madeleine” –“Madeleine remembers being a different person.”–alarm bells sounded in my head. The voice is almost passive, it’s tight third person, and it’s a story about self reflection. Ugh. But I had enough faith in author Amal El-Mohtar to persevere, and I’m glad I did.

Madeleine is the child of a woman who is robbed of her memories and herself by Alzheimers. Bereft of family or close friends, Madeleine is nearly undone by grief after her mother’s death and foolishly agrees to participate in a clinical trial for a drug, which, she believes, has caused her to have incapacitating flashbacks. We see her battling the insistent logic of a psychologist who wants Madeleine to discuss her relationship with her mother even when our main character simply wants treatment for the episodes and to protect her memories. Continue reading