Note: This is review number five of the six short stories nominated for the Nebula Award in 2017. You will find the full list of nominees here, and the other reviews this year in the most recent posts.
“A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wild Flowers” by Alyssa Wong is about two tragic sisters with great love for one another despite their differences. They have the power to bend space and time. When one of the sisters dies, the other feels compelled to try, try and try again to change the circumstances leading to her sister’s death.
The depictions of the sisters feels true, if not extremely deep. There are some sweet descriptions of their closeness as young girls and the pain of separation when they’re older. Sibling relationships are subtle and powerful in their own right, and the notion that the balance of the universe might depend on the harmony of two sisters is an attractive idea. The story’s strongest feature is the emotional frenzy surrounding the main character’s emotions. Continue reading
Note: this is review number four of the nominees for the Nebula Award for short fiction this year. You can see all the nominees listed here.
Who knew there really were such shoes? These are reportedly displayed at a medieval crime museum in Rothenburg, Germany.
Amal El-Mohtar is no stranger to accolades for her writing. She’s been a Nebula finalist before and won the Locus Award as well as several Rhysling Awards for poetry. I, however, have not been particularly thrilled with some of her more recent stories. So when I saw that she was nominated for the Nebula again this year, I worried that I would be handing out another tough review of an author whose work I want to like.
I am happy to report that my worries were misplaced. This is the story I’ve been waiting for from El-Mohtar. It’s both simpler in form and far, far, better in execution than earlier ones recently nominated for awards.
“Seasons of Glass and Iron”, published in Uncanny Magazine, is a sweet fantasy told from the perspectives of two characters who have painful lives involving curses and shame. One of the main characters is Tabitha who is crossing the world wearing iron shoes that must be worn out before they can be removed. And she is on the fourth of seven pairs. Despite her mangled feet and the pain, she sees beauty in the world all around her. Still, she cannot stop to make a new home. The other character, Amira, sits atop a glass mountain where she feels safe on her glass throne as long as she doesn’t move. Amira appreciates the peace that comes from keeping the world at bay far below her perch, yet she is lonely. Continue reading
Note: this is review number three of the nominees for the Nebula Award for short fiction this year. You can see all the nominees listed here. Previous reviews are here and here.
Harpies. That’s all you need to know about “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander. Published in Uncanny Magazine, this short, short story is barely more than 1,000 words, and it just screams from start to finish. Which is what you would expect in a story about a Harpy.
There’s no reviewing this. The main character doesn’t give us her name, because we couldn’t pronounce it or do it justice anyway. She barely describes herself except for those telltale, feathery appendages that were so rudely stolen from her, but it is the theft that motivates this brief episode in our character’s immortal existence. The world is charming and righteous with a muscle car and cosmic scenery providing the color for a simple act of revenge.
My favorite sentence: “I was playing at being mortal this century because I love cigarettes and shawarma, and it’s easier to order shawarma if your piercing shriek doesn’t drive the delivery boy mad.”
Why don’t we see more stories about harpies? And what’s the difference between angels and harpies? They’re both associated with righteousness and retribution, aren’t they? I’d take a screaming harpy sister over those pasty-faced emissaries from God any day. The narrator of Bolander’s story is so cool, I could see her striking up a friendship with Dean and Sam. Well, okay, probably Dean. On the other hand, I don’t really see this short story winning the Nebula. Still, I’m glad it was nominated. If there was a category for micro fiction, I’d say it had a really good shot.
Thumbs up and 4.8 stars out of 5.
Read more in español. Continue reading
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.
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