The power of creation, intent and love is highlighted in “Das Steingeschöpf” by G.V. Anderson

Note: this is the second review of the World Fantasy Award nominees for short fiction. You can see the list of nominees here.

Das Steingeschöpf” scratched an itch I didn’t know I had. The tone and narrative style immediately placed me in early 20th century Europe with its quaint depiction of a German village and a young journeyman of sorts just beginning his career. This is no criticism. Unlike so many stories today, G.V. Anderson’s style allowed me to clearly picture the place, the narrator and the fantastic creature, Ambroise, who needs mending. Within the first two paragraphs I was completely immersed in the story.

Frau Leitner from Bavaria had written to request a small restoration—I took the southbound train from Berlin, made two changes, and disembarked at the end of the line in a small town tucked between the pleats of the mountains. A ragged man with a horse-drawn cart was waiting for me. We travelled by lamplight up a steep, icy path to the front door of an old timber chalet.

All was dark and quiet. I jumped down, the snow crackling beneath my weight, and turned to thank the driver. He’d already clicked to the horse and was turning the cart around, grimly avoiding my eye.

Perhaps my appreciation for the author’s descriptions seems a little sentimental. As I said, I didn’t expect the story to move me, but it did. This is a beautiful, melancholy story that captures the fleeting peace between the two world wars and, somehow, a turning point in human consciousness about itself.

Okay, I know that’s a really large claim, but that’s what I felt about it. Let me try to explain. Continue reading

Rachael K. Jones attempts to balance heaven and earth in “The Fall Shall Further the Flight in Me”

Here we go, folks. Review number one of the World Fantasy Award nominees for short fiction. See the full list here

In Rachael K. Jone’s short story “The Fall Shall Further the Flight in Me”, readers are invited into a fascinating world where earthbound and skybound beings worship each other without much understanding of the other’s reality. We see the world from the perspective of a young, earthbound holy woman-in-training. There’s a whole lot of sin among the earthbound, or at least that’s what they believe about themselves, for our narrator is describes her training as primarily composed of exercises in self denial and suffering.

thoughtsofflyingThe duality of this world is beautifully described in this fantasy that feels like a sketch for a much longer story. Women “step” up and down in the air. The earthbound starve themselves to rise and the skybound eat to fall. But the story’s dualistic vision is not sharpened over the course of the story. The nature of each group of beings is unclear in the beginning and only becomes more ambiguous as the story rolls along. This provides both tension and relief in the story as well as insight on the idea that we may be better off without the labels angel and demon. Continue reading

Review of World Fantasy Award nominee “The Neurastheniac” by Selena Chambers

This is the fifth and final review of the nominees for the World Fantasy Award for best short fiction in 2015. Winners will be announced in October. Other reviews are hereherehere and here

If I wanted to read “The Neurastheniac” by Selena Chambers I had to order the anthology it’s published in, which I didn’t mind doing, but discovering that Cassilda’s Song was created to pay tribute to “The King in Yellow” put me off right from the start.

I like a good bit of weird fiction. I even like weird fiction that pays tribute to particular fictional mythos (See my review of “The Deepwater Bride” for example.), but I have my limits. All of us do. Weird fiction that requires me to delve into a mythos I don’t find particularly compelling has to be either stylistically interesting and conceptually fresh or stylistically fresh and conceptually interesting to hold my attention. In my opinion this story did not make that cut. 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