The Inner City by Karen Heuler

It’s a collection of interesting, slightly surreal stories, often with great twists. The stories tend toward the dark–the weirdness is more magical realism than urban fantasy.

I enjoyed it, but the stories didn’t make a deep impression. Part of that was probably a defensive crouch, worried about the dark turn the story was going to take.

Fountain of Age by Nancy Kress

A great collection of short stories–but then, I love Nancy Kress’s writing, so it’s not surprising that I enjoyed these too.

The Erdmann Nexus is a quirky story about a big threshold event, but what makes it so interesting are the main characters. It’s centered on an old folks home, with a wide variety of ability levels and togetherness–but interesting, rich, lived characters. It’s the longest; maybe a novelette?

The Kindness of Strangers is mostly about a group of people, trapped, trying to survive. The inexorable backdrop is interesting, as is the population reduction throughline.

By Fools Like Me is a quirky post-apocalyptic tale, mostly about a grandmother and granddaughter. It’s simpler, with a scathing look at superstitions.

First Rites was an interesting tale of sacrifice and genetic engineering, mostly told from the POV of a shunned woman who is returning to back country China as the book starts, and her American cousin–and the child they share responsibility for. It’s interestingly told, with a final twist that feels… unearned, but that’s not really right. Maybe it just went too fantastic.

End Game is an interesting meditation on focus and genius… and the role of serendipity and stray thought. It doesn’t end well for the world…

Images of Anna is about a woman who runs a photography studio, who meets a woman whose photographs never show her. There’s fascination and strangeness as she sets out to discover what caused the weird photo manipulation…

Laws of Survival is about scrabbling life in the domes, and an odd out… plus the mystery of unraveling who the aliens are and what they’re aiming for.

Safeguard is an interesting story about creating a sealed world… and what happens when that breaks up. There’s good reason to keep the kids sealed away…

Fountain of Age is longer, a winding and complicated and fun tale. It too starts in an old folks home, but Max isn’t a normal hero. He has a twisty past, and knew an important woman well… both of which we visit in extensive flashbacks and a roaming tale. It’s a very interesting future; life extension is tricky!

Sister Emily’s Lightship by Jane Yolen

An interesting short story collection; all well told and interesting without requiring buy-in from previous works. There’s a lot of twisted fairy tales, but a number of other great story styles too.

The Traveler and the Tale
Snow in Summer
Speaking to the Wind
The Thirteenth Fey
Granny Rumple
Blood Sister
Journey into the Dark
The Sleep of Trees
The Uncorking of Uncle Finn
Dusty Loves
The Gift of the Magicians
Sister Death
The Singer and the Song
Lost Girls
Belle Bloody Merciless Dame
Words of Power
Great Gray
Under The Hill
Godmother Death
Creationism: An Illustrated Lecture
Dick W. and His Pussy – A brief, fun farce
Become a Warrior – An interesting tale about being left behind when war comes… and making your own terms for dealing with it.
Memoirs of a Bottle Djinn – A fun little story about giving wishes back and commitment
A Ghost of an Affair – An odd time travelish story, with great place feel
Sister Emily’s Lightship – An interesting episode from a quiet life, very influenced by the author’s location and exposure to Emily Dickinson.

Shadowed Souls by Jim Butcher and Kerrie L. Hughes

A collection of short stories, mostly Urban Fantasy. A few stories were written to stand alone and a few were from series I already appreciate. (Like Jim Butcher’s Cold Case, about Molly.) In general, I enjoyed them, though most weren’t a huge impact–they almost all seem to have been written as easy to skip side adventures that don’t affect the main book series.

The vignettes of established characters from series that I don’t read had a much taller climb. Impossible Monsters was a good stand alone. Hunter Healer was new to me and intriguing. Impossible Monsters was much darker than the rest–it stood out, positively–though I doubt that I’d enjoy whole novels about the character. (The character also has an obnoxious feel of having leveled up that I dislike in non-game world fiction… and even there, usually.) Peacock in Hell also stuck with me.

Clarkesworld 112

Clarkesworld ISSUE 112, JANUARY 2016.
(I’ll post it now and just update it as I read the stories.)

Quick notes on the stories:
The Algorithms of Value by ROBERT REED was an odd and interesting post scarcity story. Parchment is our POV character; over the course of the story, it turns out that she is rich, somewhat famous, and partially responsible for the state of the world. It’s a world of tremendous abundance, at least in terms of material goods. It’s quirky and offbeat, with flickering reflections about modern marriage.

The Abduction of Europa by E. CATHERINE TOBLER. The story gets off to a strong, engaging start, with a solid grounding… and odd asides about Europa and Zeus of myth. It’s a weird world; the struggle to survive it blends into odd hallucinations and dreams, successfully conveyed by the author. It was interesting, but the characters didn’t grow on me much.

Extraction Request by RICH LARSON

Everybody Loves Charles by BAO SHU

The True Vintage of Erzuine Thale by ROBERT SILVERBERG


Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History

Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History edited by Rose Eox and Daniel Jose Older is an interesting collection of historical and fantasy short stories.

The stories vary in time and place, though most of them are set within the last 500 years. Some of the settings are quite familiar, such as Marigolds, set just prior to the French Revolution. A few of the stories are well outside of my traditional reading, such as Ogres of East Africa, There Will Be One Vacant Chair and The Dance of the White Demons. Many of the others are set since the renaissance, many in Europe or America.

I distracted myself, at times, with trying to identify or predict the element that would make something “marginal” enough to qualify for this collection. That’s a distraction; most of the stories are good, and most offer intriguing new viewpoints.

I’m looking forward to keeping this one in my collection and rereading it. I wonder which ones will stick?

Dangerous Women

Dangerous Women is a mixed anthology, with several very good stories, many interesting and good, and a few “meh”. Interestingly, Martin’s story that’s boldly advertised is in the last category. The Princess and the Queen, or, the Blacks and the Greens describes an interesting time, but the POV selected is a historian who confines himself to the broad sweep… which means that there’s no personality; other than that the world is fiction, it’s almost as dry as a real world history book.

A Queen in Exile by Sharon Kay Penman, was a fascinating look into real history, with a solid look at Queen Constance. It’s interesting, and features a strong protagonist–despite her not matching current fantasy fiction, picking up a sword an leading her men. There is a lot of enduring and being moved by outside forces… I really liked it.

Joe Abercrombie’s Some Desperado kicks off the book. It has a very western flavor (despite a lack of sixguns); it’s tense and gritty, well handled.

Rather than going story by story, I’ll just note that there’s a wide range of stories. For a very broad range of action, adventure, noir, fantasy, or sci-fi, there’s at least an interesting story or two for you.

N Space by Larry Niven

A mix of novel excerpts, short stories, new short stories in the worlds of his novels, and blog like things– Niven’s Laws, Superman’s reproductive challenges, and other random musings. Most stories begin with a page or so discussion about how the story came about, what his life was like when he wrote it, or similar. This is a reread– I have no idea when I last read this book.

I half remembered several of the stories; I remembered Cloak of Anarchy and was happy to get a chance to revisit it. In general I liked the short stories, disliked the novel excerpts, and found the blog like elements interesting but easily forgotten. As I was reading it, I found it easy to pick up several other books in the middle– a particular hazard faced by a book of short stories.

Overall I recommend this as a library book– check it out, skip over any story that doesn’t grab you by page 2, and enjoy the great nuggets scattered among the remainder.