“Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar highlights the writer’s gifts

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


“Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander–a revenge tale served hot / “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” de Brooke Bolander – una historia de venganza servida caliente

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.

wingsHarpies. 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

“The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History” by Sam J. Miller imagines the potential force at the nexus of rage, sorrow and love / “The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History” de Sam J. Miller imagina la fuerza potencial del nexo entre la rabia, la tristeza y el amor

This is the fourth review of the nominees for the World Fantasy Award for best short fiction in 2015. Winners will be announced in October. Other reviews are herehere and here. The Spanish translation following this post is by Daniela Toulemonde.

The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History” by Sam J. Miller relates an alternative history of the Stonewall riots in 1969 and the mix of tensions that led up to the initial rebellion. Employing a creative story structure that features passages from oral interviews with people at the event, Miller doesn’t focus on a new timeline, but explores the mystery of an imagined trigger event on a night in history that actually did mark a significant change in the LGBTQ movement.

Readers are introduced to several characters at the Stonewall that night. One of the primary characters is Craig Perry, a gay black man furious with a world that has imposed such tremendous loneliness upon him and injustice on the people he identifies with. The other central character is Ben Lazzarra, a cop who is unable to tell even his twin brother (also a cop) that he is gay. The story evolves as each character describes the events leading up to their decision to go to the club and what they experienced the night of the trigger incident. The compiler of these interviews, a former NY Times reporter, narrates the story from a distance, explaining the significance of the raid for the movement and the inability to authenticate the supernatural occurrences that witnesses reported, while also repenting for her own culpability in the oppression of LGBTQ people. Continue reading