REVIEW: “Evening Chorus” by Lizz Donnelly

Review of Lizz Donnelly, “Evening Chorus” in Rhonda Parrish, ed., Grimm, Grit, and Gasoline: Dieselpunk and Decopunk Fairy Tales, (World Weaver Press, 2019): 42-51 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Following quick on the heels of the previous story we have another story wherein women are predominantly in the story to be treated as things to be owned and manipulated — and in the case of Jenny, this gets taken quite literally. As with Alejandra’s story (read the review), I sort of felt like I wanted more out of this one — not just a retelling of the original tale, but a questioning and a subverting of it. What would it have been like, if women were not merely objects?

On the other hand, before this story I was not familiar with the tale it was based on, Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Nightingale”, and the story made me curious to read it, so that’s definitely a point in its favor.

REVIEW: “Salvage” by A. A. Medina

Review of A. A. Medina, “Salvage” in Rhonda Parrish, ed., Grimm, Grit, and Gasoline: Dieselpunk and Decopunk Fairy Tales, (World Weaver Press, 2019): 15-19 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

The best of retellings take familiar characters or stories and give us something new — a side of the character we’d never seen before, a hint of their history or their future, or the same story viewed in a new light. But there are limits to how much a story or a character can be changed and still result in a successful retelling. Unfortunately, this story of Geppetto and Jiminy went too far beyond Collodi for my own taste: Pretty much the only resemblance was the names of the characters and the fact that Medina’s Geppetto is also a creator. I can’t help but wonder if this story would have been stronger with wholly new characters.

REVIEW: Grimm, Grit, and Gasoline: Dieselpunk and Decopunk Fairy Tales edited by Rhonda Parrish

Review of Rhonda Parrish, ed., Grimm, Grit, and Gasoline: Dieselpunk and Decopunk Fairy Tales, (World Weaver Press, 2019) — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This collection of 18 stories was my first introduction to the subgenres of dieselpunk and decopunk. Parrish in her editorial introduction defines diesel- and decopunk in opposition to steampunk (the characteristic difference between them being time-period), but this approach only works for a reader who already has a comfortable grasp on steampunk — something I’m not sure I yet have. What makes a story “-punk”? I wasn’t sure before I started reading, and I’m not sure I had any better an idea by the time I was done.

Does this mean I felt the anthology failed? No. As a collection of interesting stories with a strong fairy-tale influence (stronger in some stories than others, but overall the inspiration was obvious), overall I enjoyed reading it. I think that there is a lot of “scope for the imagination”, as Anne Shirley would say, in setting stories in the 1915-1945 era, and further that the World Wars, with important roles that Germany played in both, provide a unique perspective on retellings of what are ultimately very German fairy tales. (Not that all the fairy-tale inspirations in the book come from Grimm, but the Grimms’ tales lend themselves well to transposition of setting in this way). That being said, I did feel that the quality of the stories was uneven — some more successful than others in both plot and presentation. Were any of them bad? No. Was the entire collection outstanding? Alas, no also.

As usual, we’ll review each story individually, and link each back here when the review is posted:

REVIEW: “Tyrannocora Regina” by Leonie Skye

Review of Leonie Skye, “Tyrannocora Regina”, Shimmer 46 (2018): 71-83 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

If you’re looking for time-traveling lesbian dinosaurs who do roller derby, have I got a story for you…

That collection of words almost feels like the result of a challenge, like the author pulled them out of a hat and then had to write a story about them. Whether or not that’s the case, the resulting story was moderately successful. Time travel narratives are always difficult, and I had to reread the beginning parts a few times before I figured out how to make sense of them, but the threads came together in the end.

REVIEW: “The Need for Overwhelming Sensation” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “The Need for Overwhelming Sensation” in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 241-256 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content note: blood, injury, masochism, kinkshaming, misgendering, warfare, mention of slavery.

Take the content note seriously: We are dropped immediately into the midst of blood and destruction when an unexpected visitor arrives on the narrator’s doorstep, begging their assistance.

There are so many aspects of this story that I could highlight, but I will pick out just one, and that is how intensely physical it is, deeply, gut-wrenchingly, in a way that is entire unerotic and unsexual. It hit me at a very visceral level, touched me in a way that no other story in this volume did — as much as I enjoyed all of them — and I have a hard time articulating just how good this story is — one of the best I’ve read this year — in the context of a review. My words fail. I loved it.

(First published in Capricious 2015).

REVIEW: “Wind-Lashed Vehicles of Bone” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “Wind-Lashed Vehicles of Bone” in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 235-239 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content warning: Pain exchange, scarification, mention of death and suicide.

Araana is a dreamer, who dreams distant and unknown futures. He’s not sure why — is it magic? Or is it a much more mundane explanation? — but the glimpses he sees appeal to the engineer inside him. Maybe, with the help of Ujabir the town mage, maybe he can make that distant future become present.

This story had almost a steam-punk feel to it, atypical for the other stories in this collection, but entirely suited to this story. The story is full of fierce joy and hope, and I really enjoyed it.

(First published in 2017 on Patreon.)

REVIEW: “The Visible Frontier” by Grace Seybold

Review of Grace Seybold, “The Visible Frontier”, Clarkesworld Issue 154, July (2019): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A beautifully written story, with poignant emotions, a wonderful narrative, and wondrous descriptions. There’s a lot of focus on world-building, and I’d love to read more stories in the universe. When the story starts, you’ll assume a certain timeline and setting, but there’s a Reveal in store. When you realize how different things are from what you expected, it adds another layer of depth to this story.

Our protagonist, Inlesh, is a curious and intelligent young man, and we follow his journey of inquisitiveness throughout the story. Which, honestly, is what makes this story so poignant.

Richly woven in terms of both storytelling and world building.