The story has many echoes of the traditional Norwegian fairy tale “East of the Sun and West of the Moon,” which puts me in mind of Edith Pattou’s East, one of my favorite books. So I really enjoyed reading this. I also enjoyed it for the optimistic view it paints of happiness at the end of life, after the death of a spouse. It is a sweet story of how love transcends boundaries, both literal and physical, and Hagey needs only a few words to paint neat pictures of each of the characters.
It’s hard to know whether to describe this story as SF or dystopian, though the unhappy future presented in it makes me lean towards the latter. Sometimes, future-oriented SF can just be so damn depressing.
Reading this, it feels like the tenses and temporal points are not mapped out correctly. There is a lot of past perfect, and a lot of present, and the “once, years ago, Alice could read Lenore’s moods by her eyes” – shouldn’t that really be “once, years ago, Alice had been able to…”? Because surely we are not talking about a single moment in time but rather an extended period. These shifts in tenses and the oblique way with which Grygotis approaches her story combine to make many aspects of the story unclear and uncertain. Both Lenore and Alice know why their insurance premiums are too high, but unfortunately, by the end of the story, I don’t, and the power that the ending might have had is lost on me.
This wonderfully enticing collection is chock full of stories of all lengths and genres, as the listing of stories below indicates — more than 350 pages of monster stories. These are stories of
the bogey-men and devils who will eat you if you go out at night…the gods and demigods waiting to be offended…sinister mutations and imposters who try to fool us…the monsters we harbor deep in our own hearts (p. v).
The anthology is charmingly illustrated throughout, with a pen and ink picture for each tale, and sometimes a few small icons scattered within the story (depending on its length). Unfortunately, no information about the provenance of these images is provided — unfortunate, because whoever the artist(s) was (were), they should be credited!
The stories range from the quite short (a page and a half) to the quite decently long, such as Delilah Night’s “For the Love of Snow White” (just over thirty pages). The best way to get a sense for the variety of the stories told is to read the reviews of the individual contributions, which will be linked below as they are published:
- “Company for Tea” by Kimber Camacho
- “Adapt and Overcome” by Stephen R. Smith
- “Too Generous” by N. R. M. Roshak
- “Raw Material” by Brandon Nolta
- “Waffles” by Ariel Ptak
- “For Love of Snow White” by Delilah Night
- “Nephilia clavata” by G. Grim
- “Going Forth By Day” by Andrew Johnson
- “Trich” by Jay Knioum
- “What Lies in the Ice” by P. A. Harland
- “Sin” by Karl Egerton
- “Katabasis” by Petter Skult
- “Breach” by Niki Kools
- “Demon in a Copper Case” by Damon L. Wakes
- “Hansel and Gretel in the Wasteland” by Shondra Snodderly
- “Töpflein, stehe” by G. Deyke
- “Beauty Mortis” by Jaap Boekestein
- “Silver Noir” by Ariel Ptak
- “Penumbra” by Chris Brecheen
- “Of Anger and Beauty” by Stephen R. Smith
- “Robbie and the Birds” by A. R. Collins
- “Onward Christian Soldiers” by G. H. Finn
- “Reborn” by Petter Skult
- “Gorgon’s Deep” by Mike Adamson
- “Cuddles” by Ariel Ptak
- “Picture Perfect” by Lori Tiron-Pandit
- “A Helping Hand” by Samantha Trisken
- “Bartleby & the Professors Solve the Riddle” by Shondra Snodderly
- “Daughter” by Will Reierson
- “Gristle” by Jay Knioum
- “Camping” By J. D. Buffington
- “Wasteland” by Stephen R. Smith
- “Passive Aggressive” by Narrelle M. Harris
- “Cinderevolution” by Shondra Snodderly
- “Sometimes People are Monsters” by Kaleen Hird
- “Skeletons in the Closet” by Susanne Hülsmann
- “Memento Mori” by Charlotte Frankel
- “Red Queen’s Lullaby” by Ariel Ptak
- “Heirlooms” by Rosalind Alenko
- “The Sphinx” by Petter Skult
- “Demon of the Song” by Ville Meriläinen
- “The Gilded Swan” by Damon L. Wakes
- “Aliens and Old Gods” by Kimber Camacho
- “A Taste of Freedom” by Thomas Webb
One general comment about the typesetting — the font used in the table of contents and in the headers/footers is maximally confusing, with many letter forms being only identifiable by looking at occurrences of the same form in words which are unambiguous, so I apologise in advance for misrepresenting any of the titles. (I went back and forth as to whether Ptak’s third story was “Cuddles” or “Puddles”). (I did, however, manage to not to interpret all the l’s as long s’s, even though I really wanted to.)
Update! (24 Feb 18): One of the JayHenge staff members has more information about the lovely artwork used in the book. It all comes from the OpenClipart site, a collection of royalty-free clipart from various sources (including some images being from out-of-copyright books taken and turned into clipart). What an excellent little resource, and thanks to Susanne Hülsmann for passing on this information.
This is the longest of all the stories in the anthology, and makes for a stellar capping off of the collection. The pin is somewhere in the Caribbean, and the story is a classic creepy zombie story. It is totally not the sort of story that I would ordinarily seek out to read, because I’m not a zombie story person. I’m also not really a lonely-space-traveler-with-companion-AI story person either, or a horror story kind of person, and this story was all three of these. And yet, it was also exactly the sort of story I want, not because it was a horror-zombie-lonely-traveller story, but because of the way it was these things, because of the diversity of characters, because of the one who thinks like me, because of the roller coaster of hope and despair that Bovenmyer takes us on. It was very satisfying.
Review of Patrick S. Baker, “The Siege of Battle-Station Camelot”, in Starward Tales II, edited by CB Droege (Manawaker Studio, 2017): 119-131 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)
Sometimes, what the myth being retold is is obvious from the title, so it will come as no shocker here that the pin is placed in England and that this is the story of Arthur Pendragon, excuse me, Captain Arturo Penn Dragon, his wife, Lieutenant-Commander Gwen Dragon, maverick fighter pilot Commander Lance Lake, and an omniscient AI named Merlin — plus a huge host of other characters that are not so familiar from traditional Arthurian myths, such as strike leader Mai Kono and merchantship owner Dirk van Doorn.
And that is where part of my issue with the story lies. Half-way into the story, we know more about the ships and the weapons and the battle than we ever know about any of the characters; it sometimes feels as if the author feels he doesn’t need to tell us anything about the characters because they are already known to us — and that works for the ones which are known, but for the ones which are new additions or are not immediately correlatable to someone known, it leaves them mostly flat. (Though not entirely: we learn a little bit about Mai Kono’s backstory, and she develops into a character worth knowing. But it is precisely this development and backstory, so out of place from the standard Arthurian cycle, that makes her insertion puzzling.)
The most peculiar part about the story is the end, and the fact that Camlann is nowhere mentioned. (I’ll say no more, for fear of spoilers).
There are a handful of typos, including one sentence that ended up being utterly unparsable, and it should also be noted that the pagination in the table of contents does not match the actual pagination (given in the header above).
Review of CB Droege, “The Suited Prince”, in Starward Tales II, edited by CB Droege (Manawaker Studio, 2017): 189-190 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)
This story is the shortest in the collection, barely two pages. The pin for its inspiration is stuck somewhere in Germany, but because the story is so short it is hard to tell what the root tale is — after all, there are many German fairy tales and folk tales that involve giant chickens!
The story was good for a laugh, in a way that many of the other tales in the book don’t seemed designed to be for. Sometimes, it’s good to read something whose only goal is entertainment.
The pin for this story is someplace in Nigeria, as best as I can tell, and this immediately piqued my interest as I knew it would be a story that I was not familiar with.
The story was so good I pretty much utterly failed to take any notes while reading it. The only hint I will give is this: This is the story of what happens when you give agency.