REVIEW SUMMARY: A brilliant short story collection, which deserves a spot right next to your volume of fairy tales and I’m not talking about the child-friendly variety here.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Interconnected stories of dangerous books, witches and wise women, fey folk from a different realm and girls trained to be assassins, professional poisoners and healers. This collection introduces the sisterhood of Little Sisters of St Florian and is set in the world of Slatter’s Sourdough and Other Stories, acting as an origin story for the events in the previous collection.
PROS: Exquisite prose; a shared world where the stories bleed into each other to establish a vibrant and sprawling mythology; complex portrayal of women as protagonists and antagonists; the breathtaking pen-and-ink illustrations by artist Kathleen Jennings.
CONS: The collection ended. Honestly, I could read at least three more volumes with tales in this world.
BOTTOM LINE: It’s among the strongest short story collections on the market and it will fill your heart with darkest wonders.
With The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings Angela Slatter proves why she’s one of the most important voices in fantasy. Fairy tales have seen a strong resurgence in recent years, but only Slatter understands them well enough to distill the essence that made them influential and prevalent and create her own mythos. She succeeds in her task and her short stories rival Grimm’s fairy tales in their darkness, danger and viciousness.
REVIEW SUMMARY: A debut collection that effortlessly plays with the finer nuances of sorrow and whimsy, though not without some wandering.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Beautiful Sorrows has no theme other than to showcase the range and skill of Mercedes M. Yardley. Her debut collection presents a rich assortment of short stories, flash fiction and micro fiction set in worlds that both resemble our own and remind of forgotten fairy tales left to their own devices.
PROS: Beautiful language that pairs with imaginative storylines; surreal, dream-like events; a general sense of unconventionality that works in favor of the narratives; emotionally charged scenes and strong characterization.
CONS: The flash and micro fiction pieces pale in comparison to the longer offerings, which make for an uneven reading experience
BOTTOM LINE: It’s a great debut. Beautiful Sorrows is subtle in some places, heartbreaking in others. Both surreal and painfully relatable in its familiarity. Mercedes M. Yardley sounds like no writer I’ve read until now and there’s a high chance she sounds like no one other than herself. That’s something to look forward to experiencing.
Beautiful Sorrows is a peculiar collection by a peculiar author with a peculiar voice and even more peculiar stories. That’s the best introduction I can manage and be concise as to what you can expect reading. This debut collection falls on the slimmer side, peppered with micro and flash fiction pieces serving as punctuation to the greater emotional narrative within Beautiful Sorrows. In his introduction, P. Gardner Goldsmith compares Yardley to a siren and rightfully so, but instead songs that fuel lust, Yardley sings songs to make hearts break.
In episode 245 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester chats with science fiction and fantasy author Matthew S. Rotundo.
In 2013 Angry Robot books will be publishing three Split Worlds novels, the first is out in March and called Between Two Thorns. I’ve been releasing a new story every week for a year and a day, hosted on a different site every time, all set in the Split Worlds. I wanted to give readers a taste of my kind of urban fantasy and have the opportunity to build in secrets and extra bits for those people who, like me, love the tiny details. It’s also been a major part of my world-building work alongside writing the novels.
This is the fifty-first tale in the year and a day of weekly short stories set in The Split Worlds. If you would like me to read it to you instead, you can listen to it at the bottom of this post. You can find links to all the other stories, and the new ones as they are released here. You can also sign up to get the stories delivered to your inbox, one per week for a year and a day.
Olivia tried to ignore the way her brother was watching over her shoulder as she poured the liquid into the funnel.
“Careful,” he whispered.
“There’s too much for that bottle.”
She pressed her lips together. He was nervous and only trying to help.
“Are you sure it’s pure?”
“Oh be quiet, Henry!”
The funnel slipped as the last drops left the bottle and one splashed onto her hand. She wiped it off but still felt a terrible rush of despair. She reminded herself it was not hers.
REVIEW SUMMARY: Two fine short Fantastic Victoriana stories from Daniel Abraham.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Balfour and Meriwether, special agents to the British crown, deal with extraordinary and fantastical threats to their monarch, and the world.
PROS: Light, fun atmosphere, breezy dialogue, clever action and appealing protagonists in a fine Secret Fantastic Victorian Era.
CONS: The stories are a bit short, and feel a bit constrained in word length.
BOTTOM LINE: Two fun stories that show yet another side to one of Genre’s best and facile writers today.
Balfour and Meriwether in Two Adventures, published by a new digital publisher called SnackReads, collects two Victoriana stories by Daniel Abraham, one of the most facile and flexible writers today. The title characters are agents for the British Crown in the late 19th century. The two stories deliberately obscure in time, and are told from the perspective of Mr. Meriwether looking back on the adventure from a journal written after the first world war. The stories have a fantastic Victorian feel, but with the twist of it being a secret history. Ordinary people have no idea the extraordinary threats and dangers Belfour and Meriwether face.
Michael Marano is a former punk rock DJ, bouncer, and the author of the modern dark fantasy classic Dawn Song, which won both the International Horror Guild and Bram Stoker Awards. For almost 20 years, his film reviews and pop culture commentary have been a highlight of the nationally syndicated Public Radio Satellite System show Movie Magazine International. His non-fiction has appeared in alternative newspapers such as The Independent Weekly, The Boston Phoenix and The Weekly Dig, as well as in magazines such as Paste and Fantastique. His column “MediaDrome” has been a wildly popular feature in Cemetery Dance since 2001. He currently divides his time between a neighborhood in Boston that had been the site of a gang war that was the partial basis of The Departed and a sub-division in Charleston, SC a few steps away from a former Confederate Army encampment.
The first printing of Michael’s collection, Stories From the Plague Years sold out very quickly. He sat down with SF Signal to talk about the reprinting, and some of his inspirations.
Jaym Gates: What inspired the choice of stories in Stories From the Plague Years? What themes tie them together?
Michael Marano: Well, truth to tell, there wasn’t much “choice” to the selection of the stories. The stories are all my non-novel-length works that I’d written up to the point that Stories from the Plague Years had been published. I write slowly, so I’m not that prolific. The “Plague Years” refers to the really awful days of the 1980s and early 1990s. There was a particular kind of despair that killed and maimed a lot of friends of mine, and it nearly killed me. I’m talking about despair that manifested itself through drugs, AIDS, suicide, urban violence, lack of medical care. A lot of that maiming wasn’t physical. A lot of it was mental. I think that despair was rooted in the anxiety and hopelessness caused by the Cold War climax that took place in the 1980s. When Secretary of Defense Cap Weinberg was telling Harvard students with a straight face that the A-Bomb might bring back Jesus, and the nuclear war policy shifted from preventing nuclear war to winning nuclear war. I mean, why not shoot up, give up, have unprotected sex if the guy with his finger on the button is joking about bombing Russia in five minutes? What I do with the stories is kind of treat in horror and dark fantasy terms this very dystopian inner reality that existed back then. The stories are arranged in such a way that you can see an overall thematic arc if you squint right, from inward-focused, destructive rage to fighting to live for the sake of others you love.
REVIEW SUMMARY: An excellent quartet of stories with strong female characters, and Rome. Romanpunk!
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Classics expert Tansy Rayner Roberts brings four Roman themed stories with strong women, and monsters across 2 millennia of time.
PROS: Rome themed fiction! Dry wit, clever writing, excellent linking across the four stories.
CONS: The size of the collection works against it.
BOTTOM LINE: Ave, Augusta!
REVIEW SUMMARY: A strong and distinctive quartet of stories from a rising star in genre short stories.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: World Fantasy Award winner Margo Lanagan explores the borderlands of fantasy in a quartet of short stories.
PROS: Clear, crisp, beautiful writing across all four stories.
CONS: The last story was especially too slight in terms of genre identification.
BOTTOM LINE: Cracklescape offers an excellent window into Australian fantasy short stories.
Twelfth Planet Press is a small press in Australia dedicated to bringing genre short stories to readers. The rules and boundaries of the Twelfth Planet Press series are as formal as a sonnet: 4 original stories, with a total of 40,000 words. Margo Lanagan’s Cracklescape is the newest volume in this series.
In episode 128 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester sits down to chat with Helen Lowe, award winning author of dozens of short stories and the new novel, The Heir of Night.
About Helen Lowe:
Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, and interviewer. She has twice won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for achievement in SFF, for Thornspell (Knopf) in 2009 and The Heir of Night (The Wall of Night Book One) in 2011 and is currently the writer-in-residence at the University of Canterbury. Helen posts every day on her Helen Lowe on Anything, Really blog. on the 1st of every month on the Supernatural Underground and occasionally here on SF Signal. You can also follow her on Twitter: @helenl0we.
In episode 105 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester asks the SFSignal.com Irregulars to chime in with the books or stories they’re looking forward to in 2012.