One of my favorite genres of speculative fiction is “pick a minor character in a fairy tale and turn them into a major character”, and Mulder’s story fits squarely in that category. The minor character in this case is the mirror from Snow White — who is he? How did he get in the mirror? Why does he do the bidding of the one who looks inside him? These are all questions you’ve probably never thought of before but Mulder faces them head on in this delightful, intriguing, and unexpected fairy tale. I loved it.
Content note: Death.
This was a lovely little story about the passing down of collective memory from one generation to the next — every family needs to have someone who is the Keeper of their memories. There was very little truly speculative about the story, but I didn’t mind; sometimes it’s okay to just have a good yarn, without overburdening it with fantastical elements.
One of the reasons why I like reading modern SFF is the way it interrogates the sexist and patriarchal structures that are embedded in so much of the fiction I grew up on. You read enough of it, and you tend to think the way they depict their worlds are is the only way the world can be. But what’s brilliant about stories like Harding’s is the way they don’t just subvert problematic tropes, but also point out that the tropes are problematic. It’s empowering to read Ella explicitly go through the thought process from “I should be complimented that the dragon hunter thinks I’m pretty enough to be his ‘reward'” all the way to “fuck that, Imma kill that dragon myself”. Want a great story that teaches the importance of consent? This is it.
This was a confusing story, so much going on without much context. It centered on two people, Selina and Aylen, but neither of them did I ever feel I got to know — even with a couple of very long info dumps — , and even at the end I’m not sure which of them was the revenant.
The narrator’s father never had a chance to teach her jinli magic before he was captured, wanted for his own jinli magic. Now she is faced with attempting to rescue him without the first clue of how to go about doing it.
This was a very philosophical story, about struggles and goals, of freedom and constraint, and how to make sense of death, told in a distinctive and powerful voice. Definitely worth a few read-throughs to get all the nuances.
Content note: Eating disorders.
Katherine is recovering from an eating disorder, and is making a table. The spectre of her ED haunts the earlier part of the story, so that it takes awhile to piece together the offered clues to see that that’s what happened to her. After that, it becomes quite a frank account: I cannot say how accurate because I do not have the experience, but the way her recovery shapes her life smacks of authenticity.
It’s hard to isolate and explain the speculative — almost horror — element in the story, and how it weaves through the more mundane details, so I won’t try; it is best understood by experiencing it, by reading the story yourself.
Saffi and her wife moved North so her wife could escape the city and a job that was slowly killing her. Now, Di wants nothing more than to leave the countryside behind and return home.
There’s a good layer of tension in the story, as it is wholly unclear until right at the end whether Saffi will go with Di or not, but that alone wasn’t quite enough to elevate the story from ordinary to extraordinary.
Content note: Drug addiction, murder.
This was an entertaining take on PI-solves-a-murder, set in space, full of secret agents, double-crossing, and the sordid underbelly of society. I also enjoyed the ambiguous ending.
Content warning: Mention of eating disorders; marijuana use; casual racism.
This was very much a story of two parts. In the first, not even the addition of time travel can make a story of a man’s serial philandering any less sordid. In the second, the philandering is left behind and the time travel comes to the fore. This second half was a bit trite, but overall this was a pleasant story.
Content warning: masturbation.
Leah loves to look at every book in the booksale, wanting them all but knowing only some will her mother allow her to purchase. But what could be more harmless than a cook book?
“A Recipe for Trouble” is more a series of vignettes than a proper story, and yet Ogden still manages to provide a solid setting with sympathetic characters. The undertones of oppression and repression of women in the story give it a weight that the premise alone would not have managed.