the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘short stories

Hernandez Quantum SanteriaThe Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria, by Carlos Hernandez

Published Feb 2016

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

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Along with C.S.E Cooney, Carlos Hernandez wrote one of my favorite short stories in Clockwork Phoenix Vol 5. And Cooney wrote some of my favorite short fiction from 2015, I’ve now read her Bone Swans collection cover to cover three times. So I should have known going into Hernandez’s collection The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria that these short stories were going to be amazing.

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You know how you can know ahead of time that you’re going to love a certain movie, or a certain book? And then you go to the movie theater, or you finish the book, and it was even better than you thought it was going to be? That pretty much sums up my experience with Hernandez’s Quantum Santeria collection. I’ve read it cover to cover twice already (and gotten so much more out of the stories on the second read through!), and I see this is going to be one of those books that lives on my bedside table, so when I need something comforting to calm my mind down at bedtime the perfect thing is sitting there waiting for me.

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With gorgeous writing, accessible storylines, emotional depths alongside sometimes laugh out loud dialog, Hernandez’s prose is marble that’s been carved expertly down until the ideal sculpture is revealed. If you’re a short story author, and you worry that your short story has too much fat and not enough meat, read this collection and pick these stories apart. They’ve got everything you need, and nothing you don’t. Without rushing or infodumping, Hernandez deftly includes swaths of character development, any necessary  worldbuilding, and chapters of plot in the course of 15 pages, with ideas and concepts that are easy to grab onto and so verdantly and gloriously alive.

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GeoffreyGirardPic1aGeoffrey Girard  published Tales of The Jersey Devil in 2005, and he’s never looked back.  After two more folklore based short story collections, he wrote Cain’s Blood and its companion novel  Project Cain, which was nominated for a Bram Stoker award. His over 60 sort stories have appeared in multiple anthologies and magazines, including Writers of the Future, Apex Horror and Science Fiction Digest, the Stoker nominated Dark Faith anthology, Dark Futures, Murky Depths, Mountain Dead, and many others.

His new short fiction collection, first communions, hits bookstore shelves later this week, and if you like spine tingling thrillers, this is a collection for you!  Sixteen stories to shock, entertain, and horrify you, from the curse of ancient evils to futuristic retirement homes where the dead still rule, haunted graveyards, planets of torture where all are equal, hockey-playing demon hunters, and dark sorcerers battling in Algeria.

You can learn more about Geoffrey and his work at his website, GeoffreyGirard.com.

Geoffrey was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the anthology, his forthcoming novel Truthers, and his writing career. Let’s get to the interview!

Little Red Reviewer: Congratulations on your upcoming collection, first communions! Which stories in this collection mean the most to you?
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Geoffrey Girard: Thanks very much. And thanks for inviting me to chat. And, yikes, if I have to pick one: “Dark Harvest” will have to get that nod. It’s about a Ringwraith (basically) who crash lands in some Podunk village and the trouble that ensues. It’s the one I wrote first, the one that got me started back into creative writing after a fifteen-year break, the first story I ever got paid for, the one that led to my most-formative week as a writer (while out in Hollywood as part of Writers of the Future) and the one directly related to a childhood spent in Middle Earth, Pern, and Shannara.

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best of Apex Mag Antho

Isn’t that just some gorgeous cover art?

 

Want your favorite Apex Magazine stories bound in a dead-tree (or virtual dead-tree) volume?  Want one-stop-shopping for surreal, strange and shocking fiction?  Gotcha covered!

 

Best of Apex Magazine, Vol 1

 

Whether wandering down endless stairwells, searching for answers in the desert, or reaching out to the stars, for more than six years Apex Magazine has entertained readers with stories that are strange, beautiful, shocking, and surreal. Now, for the first time, editors Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner are collecting the award winning and nominated stories, those chosen by readers as Story of the Year, and their own personal favorites into one anthology.

 

A Veil that wipes the experiences of war from soldiers’ memories. A witch who faces down both God and the devil to save a soul. A swaying dance that crosses the galaxy to transmit a message. A vampire caught in a web of politics and law by his responsibility to his family. Within this collection, you will find 21 stories that explore what it means to love, to regret, to be human.

 

With stories by Ursula Vernon, Ken Liu, Rachel Swirsky, Sarah Pinsker, Rich Larson, and more, Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1 brings readers some of the best stories Apex Magazine has published so far.

 

Some of my favorite stories made it into this very special anthology, including “Remembery Day”, by Sarah Pinsker (seriously, my husband and I still talk about this story!), “Going Endo” by Rich Larson, and “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky.

 

And you can win a copy!  I’ve got one print copy to be given away to someone in the US, and a digital copy for anyone who lives on planet Earth (or at least has an e-mail address here).  This giveaway closes on midnight, Eastern Time, on Saturday Feb 20th.  All you need to do to enter the giveaway is, should I make you do something funny?  Leave a comment telling me something delicious you like to eat.  Make sure you leave me some way to get a hold of you (e-mail, twitter, etc), and let me know if you are the US or in a country that has a better tax system and better schools and probably better healthcare, so that I know to set you up with the print copy or the e-book copy of Best of Apex Magazine Vol 1.

 

the title of this post is a lie.

Letter writing is not a lost art. It happens all the time.

I hated writing letters as a child. I hated writing Thank You notes for birthday gifts, I hated writing out holiday cards.  I didn’t like addressing envelopes, I didn’t like pretty stationary.

Luckily, I grew out of that.  Way out.  These days I voluntarily write letters,  purchase fun cards and stationary,  go to Postcard expos, and I even enjoy addressing envelopes!  Did any of you hear on the radio the other day that the Post Office had good profits last year?  well, me and my letter writing friends go through a lot of postage.

It probably shouldn’t surprise me that I’ve come to really enjoy epilostery, epistoler, stories told through letter writing.  Characters writing letters back and forth? that sounds so cheesy! so old fashioned!!  but somehow,  I find this method of telling a story so much more effective than a bunch of characters wandering around doing things together. It’s strange, how the limits of letter writing flip themselves inside out to something infinite when used to tell a story.   Think about it – when you write a letter you only have so much space on the page.  It limits your space, so it limits what you can say (unless you want to send a 10 page letter, which is totally OK), so you have to prioritize what you want to say, and details may get left out. Letters also contain far less internal monologue, more inside jokes, the opportunity to add a doodle, misspelled words that may be crossed out, and handwriting that changes sizes or may be difficult to read.  Handwriting is a personal and non-verbal communication method all by itself.

 

So, anyway, I like those kinds of stories, and was lucky enough to run into three fantastic ones recently. Unfortunately, some of these aren’t available for public consumption yet, but they will be soon!

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So,  here’s the first of my “reading diary” blog posts.

 

I’m nearly half way through Ship of Magic, by Robin Hobb.  If you’ve never read her, she’s awesome.  This trilogy is probably a good starting point for someone new to her work, as it’s sort of a stand alone series. A number of years ago I remember maybe Hobb talking about her own work, or someone else talking about her work, and they said she imagines the worse possible thing that could happen to her main character, and then she does it. and then does it over and over to that person.  And yep, that’s about what usually happens in Hobb books.   She’s a damn genius writer, so she gets you all emotionally invested in this character (even if you don’t like the character, you will still be invested. Because Robin Hobb), and then all those horrible things that happen to the character? because of your emotional investment, it feels like it’s happening to you. or, erm, maybe that’s just me.

 

So, in Ship of Magic, Althea is cheated out of her inheritance. Her douchebag brother-in-law, Kyle, persuades the rest of the family that only he can look after the family’s legacy.  He’s such a jackass whiny twat that I want to call him Kylo.  see all the horrible words I’ve already used to describe him?  Althea isn’t an angel either, she’s kinda whiny too . . .

 

Oh, but what could this inheritance possibly be that they are fighting over? A liveship. Like, the ship is made of a special kind of wood, and after a while, the ship wakes up.  It’s alive, and liveships are a totally normal thing in this area. And the ships talk. And they are awesome. There is one liveship that supposedly went mad, and it’s been beached. Althea talks to it sometimes. I bet it would be super therapeutic if that beached ship could swim again.  I totally want to pet that poor ship and bring it cookies.  and Kyle needs to die in a fire.  But, this is a Hobb, so he won’t.

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A_Fantasy_Medley_3_edited_by_Yanni_KuzniaA Fantasy Medley 3, edited by Yanni Kuznia

Available Dec 31 2015

where I got it: received review copy from Subterranean Press (Thanks!)

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Out of the four stories in this slim volume of goodness, three of them are connected to the author’s other works. Jaqueline Carey’s powerful peice, “One Hundred Ablutions” is a true standalone, although it could easily be expanded into a full novel or series.   Editor Yanni Kuznia (read my interview with her, here) chose her stories well – each of these features empowered characters, consequences, excellent world building and even a touch of humor at times.  Short fiction is my favorite way to try out authors who are new to me – instead of a 500 page commitment, I’m making a 20 minute commitment. And anyone can do that, right?

 

Kevin Hearne’s “Goddess at the Crossroads” is fun, funny and irreverent. Atticus gets a shiver up his spine when his apprentice quotes a particular Shakespeare play, and so he tells her about his run in with a few witches and the goddess they summoned. Fans of the Iron Druid series will get a kick out of this story, and for folks new to that series (hello!) there is just enough background and information that you won’t feel lost. Although this story takes place later in the series, it was a great introduction to Atticus and his abilities. Am I a terrible person that my favorite part of this story is Atticus’s hilarious dog Oberon?  Of all the great things I’ve heard about Hearne over the last few years (and I’ve heard a lot) the thing that made me say “holy crap! I gotta read this guy!” was the dog.

 

My favorite story in the collection was Jaqueline Carey’s “One Hundred Ablutions”. It was a smart move making this the final story in the volume, otherwise I would have been spoiled, and then disappointed that the other stories weren’t as powerful as this one. Dala is a Keren girl, and as such, is offered an opportunity to become an honored handmaiden for a Shaladan family of the ruling class. By “offered an opportunity” I mean she’s never given a choice, and by “honored handmaiden”, I mean slave. But it’s the ruling Shaladan who run this society, and therefore their words are used for things that have different meanings to different people. This story was absolutely gorgeously told, Carey’s prose is transportive. There was no need for me to reread this story to write this review, because Dala’s story was seared into my mind.  In a city on the brink of revolution, is “an eye for an eye” the answer? When violence is answered with violence, who will be left to mourn the innocent dead? Dala was a slave, locked into a ritual she didn’t understand, and the violence she witnesses brings the ritual full circle.   There are no words for the final scene of this story.

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As many of you know, I’m an interviewer over at Apex Magazine. I get to read some stories way, way ahead of time, and then interview the author. As one of the magazine editors put it to me when I first came on board “ask questions that are compelling. Make readers want to read the story”.  Thanks to that piece of advice, I think my interviews across the board have gotten better.  Working with Apex is an amazing experience.

 

Along with the interviews I conduct, much of Apex Magazine’s fiction is available for free, online. But each issue also includes special content, such as a  bonus story or article, or an excerpt from a novel that’s available to subscribers only.

 

Know someone who keeps saying “I should really read more short fiction, I just don’t know where to start”? Are you planning to get an e-reader for a friend or family member for the holidays? Apex Magazine makes a great gift! In fact, Apex is currently running a subscription drive, which means you can get a year’s subscription for only $17.95.  It’s the gift that keeps giving. It’s cheaper than dinner and a movie,  and will go further than a  B&N gift card. Also? Read Apex Mag and you’ll have the opportunity to say  “oh yeah, I read all those award winning stores and editors before they were famous”. Because all that fiction? All that artwork? That costs money.  And like any business, the more funding Apex Magazine has, the more fiction, poetry, non-fiction and artwork they can purchase.

 

Wanna give Apex a whirl? In celebration of their subscription drive and in celebration of the start of the giving season, I am giving away two gift subscriptions to Apex Magazine. All you need is an e-mail address, and to be a resident of planet Earth.  Leave a comment down below, and leave me some way to reach you if you win (e-mail or twitter). I’ll be choosing two winners on Nov 10th.

 

Still not sure?  Here’s a taste of what Apex brought the world in the last year or so:

ApexMag11_large NOv 2014

I love this cover art.  I can trace the lines with my finger and discover all sorts of directions and shapes.  Among other gems, this issue included an excerpt of Lavie Tidhar’s A Man Lies Dreaming,  Elizabeth Bear’s “Tiger! Tiger!”, short fiction from Chikodili Emelumadu, Ginger Weil, and Rich Larson, and award winning fiction from Apex Mag‘s  Steal the Spotlight contest.

 

ApexMag01_large Jan

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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.