the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘short stories

datlow-yarbro

I’ve been lucky enough to interview some pretty cool people over the years.  But Ellen Datlow takes “pretty cool” to a whole new level. An editor of short fiction for nearly thirty years, Ellen holds four Hugo awards, ten World Fantasy awards, five Locus awards, three Bram Stoker awards, and I’ll stop there even though I could happily continue to list her achievements for the next hours or so. She’s co-edited twenty one Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror volumes, edited six Best Horror of the Year volumes (through Nightshade Books), and most recently was the editor for Lovecraft’s Monsters and The Cutting Room for Tachyon.

To say she is a rock star of the industry is quite the understatement.

Last weekend at the World Fantasy Convention, Ellen Datlow was awarded the prestigious Lifetime Achievement award, along with Chelsea Quinn Yarbro.

I was first introduced to her work through one of many anthologies she co-edited with Terri Windling, Snow White, Blood Red, which has since become a beloved paperback on my bookshelf.  That collection would become the first in a series of six, and many of them recently become available as e-books through Open Road Media.  If you are interested in fairy tale retellings, dark fantasy, or the short fiction of acclaimed authors such as Joyce Carol Oates,  Jane Yolen, Neil Gaiman, Tanith Lee, Charles deLint, Gene Wolfe, Storm Constantine and many others, this is an anthology series you should consider.

Datlow Windling fairy tale anthos

Ellen was kind enough to answer a few of my questions on her lifetime in the field and the joys and challenges of putting anthologies together.  Let’s get to the interview!

ellen datlow

LRR: I remember reading Snow White, Blood Red in the late 90s, it was a collection my soon-to-be husband and I bonded over. That was your first Fairy Tale anthology with Terri Windling, and it would become a series of six anthologies. When you start a new anthology, how do you know it will be a “one of”, such as Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells or a series, like the Fairy Tale or Best Horror of the Year volumes?

ED: That’s really lovely to hear!

One rarely knows in advance if an anthology will sell well enough for the publisher to offer a contract for a second, although for a year’s best one always hopes it will become a series as that’s its purpose. Snow White, Blood Red was intended to be a one-shot but it did well enough that our editor commissioned another (or two that time). I don’t think we ever got more than a two-book contract at a time for what became a six book series. It just ended up that way. And by the time the sixth came out the publisher had changed hands (possibly twice) and I was burned out on retold fairy tales — for a time.

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Scale-Bright - Benjanun Sriduangkaew

As I mentioned in my review of Scale-Bright, there are three short stories that are connect to and have been included with the novella. Some of you have already seen these, as “The Crows Her Dragon’s Gate” was published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies in 2013, “Woman of the Sun, Woman of the Moon” was published in GigaNotoSaurus in 2012, and “Chang’e Dashes From the Moon” was first published in Expanded Horizons in 2012.   The short fiction take places chronologically before Scale-Bright, and they are the mythological foundations for what occurs in Sriduangkaew’s newest contemporary urban fantasy.

 

The too long didn’t read of this review is that if you aren’t reading Benjanun Sriduangkaew, you need to be.

 

No bones about it, these short stories are gloriously bewitching, and the more I read them, the more they glowed. As with all mythology, these are stories are that coming to me through the eras of history. Like the dying light of a super nova that takes generations to reach me,  being warped and dimmed by clouds of dust and time along the way. But this light, was different.  These are characters who are saying “this is my real story, this is what really happened, this is the true color and depth of my light, of my life”.  In these retellings of how Xihe gave birth to the sun, of how Houyi the archer God shot down the suns, and of how Chang’e became the Goddess of the moon, Sriduangkaew has done the impossible: she’s convinced Goddesses who exist on high to tell us lowly mortals the silken secrets that shine deep within their hearts.

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bastion 6Bastion Science Fiction Magazine, issue 6

Published September 2014

where I got it: received review copy from the Editor (thanks!)

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This was a very satisfying, yet difficult issue to get through. Let me unpack that a little, because it sounds a little mean, and I meant it to be the opposite.  this isn’t a very long issue, so I’d planned to binge read the entire thing in one or two sittings. The  stories in issue 6 focus around death and memories, risk and responsibility, things we all have to deal with but are terrified to talk about.  After a couple of stories I needed to take a break and read or watch something happy.  But it was really hard to take a break, because the stories all start with a great hook! When fiction can affect you like that, this is a good thing.

 

The issue opens with an emotional bang, with John Herman’s “Pancakes”, in which Charlie is given one last chance to see his father. But is this simulacrum really his dad? It sure looks like his father, sounds like the old bastard too. If you had just a few minutes to talk to a parent who was barely there for you, someone you never got along with, what would you say? Is this the time to be thankful, to be gracious, to be honest, to say the things you never thought you’d have the chance to say?  Charlie says them, and leaves, and then his father finishes the conversation without him.

 

We then move into the very dark “The Long, Slow War”, by Stephanie Herman, a far future science fiction story that takes place at a human colony on a distant planet. I enjoyed how the world building was done in this one, with Herman throwing the reader into the deep end at first, not quite explaining the sky split in half, or these aliens that will kill us if we so much as look at them wrong. The aliens taunt us, and our only weapon is apathy, it’s a futuristic expression of “if you ignore the person teasing you, they’ll get bored and leave you alone”.  It’s time for the treaty to be renewed and signed by both parties, and on the human side of the Embassy is a wall of photos of Ambassadors who didn’t survive the signing meeting.  The story focuses around the current human ambassador and as the meeting gets closer, his anxiety rises like bile in the throat. There is a subtext here of the silent fury behind the pacifism the colonists swore they chose for themselves.

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kaleidoscope anthoKaleidoscope, edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios

published in August 2014

where I got it: received review copy from the editors (Thanks Alisa and Julia!)

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The tagline for Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios’s new anthology Kaleidoscope is “Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy stories”, but what’s in this collection goes much deeper than that.  I really wasn’t sure what to expect, and I very much appreciated the depth of variety of the stories, everything from contemporary fantasy, to parallel universe, to futuristic schools for shapeshifters, to ancient Chinese mythology, to accidental humor,  to a superhero story, and to one so ambiguous it could take place anywhere or anytime. As promised, the characters are diverse, (mostly female, some are queer, some with disabilities or disorders, many are ethnic minorities), and while some of them have already found acceptance, others have a tougher road to travel. A number of the stories deal with being an ethnic and/or racial minority, and being torn between doing whatever it takes to be accepted by your peers, and keeping to the traditions of your parents. Even as horrible things are sometimes happening and characters are in dark places, these are incredibly hopeful, optimistic stories.

 

I think many readers will agree that the two finest  stories in the collection are “The Seventh Day of the Seventh Moon” by Ken Liu and “Walkdog” by Sofia Samatar.  Multiple award winning Ken Liu is with good reason famous for his short fiction, and Sofia Samatar is a rising star, and in fact just won the Campbell Award.  In Liu’s “The Seventh Day of the Seventh Moon”, Yuan and Jing are struggling with saying goodbye as Jing’s family prepares to move away. The two young women “fall” into the Chinese story of Zhinu and Niulang, who fell in love and were then forced to live apart (their stars are on the opposite side of the Milky Way). The story of the ancient lovers is beautiful in a way only Ken Liu can do, and if you’ve never read him, this is a wonderful introduction to the magic he does with words.  “The Seventh Day of the Seventh Moon” is a story of first love, and how to accept that your first love isn’t forever.

 

When I stop to think about it, Sofia Samatar’s “Walkdog” is also a story of first love, or at least about realizing you care deeply for another human being.  Yolanda is writing a paper for school, and you’re going to get a smile on your face reading this, because it looks like every research paper everything 9th grader has every had to write, complete with introduction, thesis statement, discussion of research and conclusion. Samatar has left in all of Yolanda’s spelling errors, unnecessary footnotes, and other errata, which just adds to the fun. So you’re smiling, and maybe laughing, and you wonder why Yolanda keeps going on this tangent about her classmate Andy, when her paper is supposed to be about the urban legend creature the Walkdog, which steals kids. This is not a very long story, and Yolanda realizes what’s happening as she’s writing the research paper, and she’s practically begging her teacher to help her, asking why someone didn’t do something earlier so the horrible thing didn’t have to happen. How can something that starts off so goofy turn so tragic so quickly? A testament to Samatar’s prowess, “Walkdog” will be on my Hugo nominations next year.

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Lynne and Michael Thomas

Ya’ll know Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, right? Even if you’re not sure if you know who they are, I’ll  bet you know their work. Editors of Apex Magazine, Chicks Dig Time Lords, Glitter and Mayhem, Queers Dig Time Lords, among others, it’s no surprise these two amazingly talented editors have a brand new project up their sleeve.

Lynne and Michael were kind enough to answer a few of my questions about their newest venture, Uncanny Magazine, which they are funding the first year of via a Kickstarter campaign.

uncanny logo

 

LRR: Your newest venture is called Uncanny Magazine.  Tell us all about it!

L & M: We’re a professional Science Fiction and Fantasy online magazine, dedicated to sharing the kinds of work that stays with you after you’ve read it. We think that the best Science Fiction and Fantasy literature combines strong characterization, elegant prose, and diverse voices from around the world. We love stories that make us feel.

LRR: How did you decide that now was the time to start a new speculative fiction magazine?

L & M: Well, we stepped down from Apex Magazine due to our daughter’s major surgery in January of this year. She’s completed her recovery, and we felt ready to get back into the industry that means so much to us.

LRR:  You are currently doing a kickstarter to fund the first year of the magazine. When can readers expect the first issue, and will readers who missed out on the kickstarter still be able to subscribe or purchase single issues?

L & M: We plan for our first issue to go to backers and subscribers at the beginning of November. Readers who missed out on the Kickstarter after it closes August 28th will still be able to subscribe or purchase single issues, hopefully through all of the major online ebook retailers (we’re just beginning to work on that now, but we’ve already committed to working with Weightless Books (http://weightlessbooks.com/) for example.)

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Did you know Clarkesworld Magazine puts out yearly volumes, so you can get a year’s worth of all that edgy fantastical SFnal fiction all in one place?   And in case you missed it, I was recently over at SFSignal reviewing Clarkesworld Year Six.  if it strikes you fancy, check out all the Clarkesworld volumes here.

It’s worth it just for all that award nominated/ winning fiction from Cat Valente, Kij Johnson, Aliette de Bodard, and more.  Bottom line – if you want cutting edge science fiction, Clarkesworld has it, and Year Six is one of the strongest collections of science fiction I’ve read in a while.

 

clarkesworld-year-six-250

 

“The Ink Readers of Doi Saket” is available online at Tor.com. Head over, give it a read (don’t worry, it’s quick. and fun!), and come on back and let me know what you think.  and if his name sounds familiar, it’s because his novelette “The Boy Who Cast No Shadow” was nominate for a Hugo last year. Interested in what I thought of the rest of the Hugo nom’d short stories? Click here!

 

My thoughts on “The Ink Readers of Doi Saket” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt:

 

 

The story takes place in the Thai village of Doi Saket during the festival of Loi Krathong, when the river is filled with all manner of floating flowers and small boats. Within the floating flowers are the wishes of everyone in Thailand. Good health, long life, revenge, love, you know, the usual.  The villagers swim into the river to retrieve the wish filled boats and read the people’s wishes, knowing some of these wishes ARE going to come true, because that’s simply how this festival works. In the cases where the boat has capsized, specially trained monks read the smeared ink, and interpret what the person wanted as best they can.

 

(In a way, Doi Saket reminded me a little of The North Pole, where every child’s letter to Santa goes. Ask Santa for a video game, you might get it. Ask Santa for a pony, you’ll probably still just get a video game. Did Santa bring you something you asked for, or did you ask for something that was within your parent’s gift buying  budget?)

 

The villagers in Doi Saket also have wishes – to not die, not to have to wait so long for dinner to be ready, to be able to satisfy a lover. you know, the usual things. Young Tangmoo doesn’t really have anything to wish for. He enjoys watching the spectacle, and only at the last possible second does he find something useful to wish for.

 

There are some shady dealings happening in Doi Saket, and in too many ways that is an inadvertently integral part of the festival. Everything has to happen just so, so something else can happen, so something else can happen. It’s all connected like clockwork, and no one but the reader gets to appreciate all the connections.
The narrative weaves back around and through itself, with some wishes being granted through karma and coincidence, others through supernatural means, and others through, well, other means that I won’t go into.  And so much of the writing is just plain funny!  With so much of this ballot taking an emotional toll, can I tell you how much of a joy it was to just laugh out loud at a funny scene, or a descriptive nickname, or just the lightness and joy in living of the whole thing?


2014 Hugo Awards

I reviewed some Hugo nominated stuff. Click here for the list.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.