Review of Ashley Deng, “The Seafarer”, in Catherine Lundoff, ed., Scourge of the Seas of Time (and Space) (Queen of Swords Press, 2018): 18-29 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)
Prior to launching SFFReviews, I actually rarely read short fiction, because most of the time it was either too short for me to become invested in the characters/setting, or it was long enough for that to happen, but then I’d want more, so it was still too short.
Deng’s story manages to fall into the perfect sweet spot: It gives me depth of character and world-building that makes me long for a novel-length story set in the world she has created, but is also self-contained enough to be satisfying.
Both Deng’s story and Drasio, the main character, slip effortlessly back and forth between what is real and what is familiar and what is unknown and what is fantastic. Drasio and his pirate crew sail the Mediterranean, plundering Dutch and Turkish ships; but his home sea is one not of this world. The Karreanan lies on the other side of the barrier.
If there is one thing about this story that I’d complain about, it’s the fact it was written in the present tense. This isn’t something that always bothers me, so I’m not sure what it was here, but I kept tripping up on it. Every few sentences I’d suddenly register a present-tense verb and realise that I’d tense-shifted all the other verbs unconsciously. I don’t object to an author picking the tense they most prefer for each particular story; I’m just sad that I found the tense so obtrusive in this case.