Review: Defying Doomsday edited by Tsana Dolichva, Holly Kench

DefyingDoomsdayByline: An anthology of apocalypse-survival fiction with a focus on disabled and chronically ill characters.
Published by: Twelfth Planet Press
ISBN: 9781922101402
Published: May 2016
Pages: 432
Format reviewed: eVersion
Publisher Site: Publisher Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five

This anthology was funded by a pozible campaign that was launched Swancon Easter weekend 2015, and delivered a few weeks and a year later in May 2016.

And the Rest of Us Wait” by Corinne Duyvis

This short story goes hand in hand with Corinne’s latest book that came out in March, On the Edge of Gone. Iveta is famous for a talent show she once appeared on, however she’s just like everyone else when a comet is set on destroying the earth, and Iveta and her family join countless others in a refugee centre to wait it out.

There are generation ships and shelters which offer more permanent solutions, but not everyone has been granted access. As if life isn’t hard enough, Iveta has a slew of medical requirements that certainly make things more dire for her than others as the comet hits, and the temporary shelter faces further issues such as power and ration issues.

We see a range of different reactions. The angry and the uncontrollable, the snippy and resigned, and those who are still hopeful, and think now is a good time to stage a musical act. I mean, it’s not like anyone is going anywhere, trapped far underground and slowly running out of air.

This is such a strong opening to the anthology, showcasing a wide variety of topics that are explored both for and against (should people receive ‘special’ treatment, is it ‘special’ treatment if the end result ends in truly unfair results, and so forth. ‘Otherbound’ by Duyvis was also amazing so it’s no surprise that this short story is also – if you haven’t read her work so far this is a good place to start, and then go and hurry to get her two other novels. You won’t be disappointed.

To Take Into the Air My Quiet Breath” by Stephanie Gunn

Jeez, what an opening. A condescending man tells children that God put roses in their lungs as they’re too young to understand what cystic fibrosis is. As though they wouldn’t be able to explain if someone had taken the time to tell them in a way they could that doesn’t result in horrific nightmares, what the hell, man.

The flu has struck Australia, if not the world. Three sisters take care of each other on their family farm, their mother and Bryce now buried. The last broadcast on the emergency channel warned everyone to stay inside and don’t leave their houses, but it’s been some time since then and they’re starting to worry about what to do when their horded medication runs out.

This piece is very emotive – many sentences making me grimace to myself in a mix of horror and sympathy, lines such as ‘More than once I’ve been tempted to slice through the scars, just so I could stretch properly.’ Aarrrgh, Aussies, why do you write horror so well even when the piece isn’t strictly horror?

Something in the Rain” by Seanan McGuire

Holly has schizophrenia and autism, has lost her parents and only has her cat for company, and then, as the story progresses, the school bully. Water has turned toxic and dangerous, and rains come each day for a little longer and a little more intense, and you don’t want to be caught out in it if you want to survive.

This was an awkward piece – the bully is horrible and I get anxious when any form of media involves pets – I can take all the violence and deaths as you can throw at me (well, I may not enjoy it, but I can keep reading), but as soon as there’s the chance something can go wrong to an animal I’m on edge, and I will stop reading/watching if anything happens to them.

This piece I could breath a sigh of relief on. I wanted to punch Cathy and – well, not hug Holly as I doubt she’d appreciate that, but help her in some way in the very least. And now I need to go have a nap to calm down.

Did We Break the End of the War?” by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Okay well it’s not time for a break after all if a favourite author is up next. Jin and Aisha are scavengers in this world that’s been torn apart by the Pulse, which knocked out the electricity and left only teenagers. They rarely see others but they are out there, and they avoid them where they can. They go through houses and take what’s useful, then trade it with other groups later. Markets are arranged and advertised via graffiti, and this is simply how life is now.

They pick up Billy, a pretty boy who fits well into their well formed duo, and now they specialise in batteries/tech, medication and…. art supplies. That is, until at the next market Jin discovers the other two have been keeping something for him, and that there’s a lot more to the Pulse than he’s ever given thought to before.

Like all of Tansy’s short stories, this one is much bigger than leaving it to this one short. This needs to be a novel.

In the Sky with Diamonds” by Elinor Caiman Sands

Megan has cerebral palsy, and was implanted with an AI when she was young, who helps her along where possible. Called Jennifer, they are alone on a capsule trying to distract and delay an attacking alien force long enough for a shuttle to get away – a shuttle where her sister Lucy and others are quickly running out of hope.

One of the very few authors I don’t think I’ve experienced before? A few lines made quite an impact – ‘I’ll just float here with my eyes shut and see what happens. Maybe I’ll just doze. I’m so sleepy.’

Two Somebodies Go Hunting” by Rivqa Rafael

Lex and Jeff go out hunting because their dad took off ages ago, and their mum is busy with another child who’s ill. Meat is scarce and there’s the possibility of bringing back some kangaroo. The hot outback is dangerous enough as it is, and it doesn’t help that Lex has a bung leg which means there’s some sand dunes simply out of her ability – so what happens if her little brother falls, or runs off? Her little brother who may possibly have autism – there’s no diagnoses after the apocalypse.

We’re now in a world where children know the names of various bacteria because it’s that and things like bird flu which have wiped out the country, to the point there they joke they’re an endangered species now. Their trek is surely too tough for their ages, but together and with their knowledge of the land and simply what they need to do to survive, is enough. I loved the interactions between the siblings, and the point we’re left at.

Given Sufficient Desperation” by Bogi Takács

Dyspraxia is what keeps Vera in workrooms, looking at hours and hours of streams of various images as aliens record her response, rather than running away from it all and joining the militants who are trying to fight back against the alien invaders. To communicate with them, the aliens speak to them in voices taken from Hungarian movie stars – Oszkár Gáti—the Hungarian dubbing actor of both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, Artúr Kálid for Will Smith… etc.

This one was the good kind of weird, keeping you reading to figure out what’s happening, what’s happened, what’s going to happen. I certainly understand the need for real sleep, and the tears at the end.

Selected Afterimages of the Fading” by John Chu

I love how this one starts. ‘A row of dumbbells sorted by weight, ranging from pointless to respectable.’

In a world where everything and everyone is fading if you don’t look at it and give it the attention it deserves, a guy with an image disorder struggles with a romance…

I had to look muscle dysmorphia up to get a clearer understanding of this one. ‘Reverse anorexia’ is what comes up when you google it; ‘Affecting mostly males, muscle dysmorphia is an obsessive preoccupation via a delusional or exaggerated belief that one’s own body is too small, too skinny, insufficiently muscular, or insufficiently lean, although in most cases, the individual’s build is normal or even exceptionally large and muscular already. (wiki)

This one has a steady and sweet exit (not an ending), and as always, I really enjoy Chu’s work, even when I’m not sure I’m smart enough to truly understand the layers.

Five Thousand Squares” by Maree Kimberley

It’s been fifteen years since the war, and there’s been changes to the world (both political and terra-weather related) where Kaye and Micha lie, and both have chronic pain issues that involve arthritis and generally make life difficult. With these things in mind when raising young families, they make a plan to stick together just in case something does happen, in order to get through it in a team. Micha’s home is high enough to avoid trouble if there’s a floor, so it’s there they stockpile food and supplies.

Good thing they do, as one night Micha contacts Kaye, saying her hip and knee both agree that things are about to go to hell. Most people with arthritis or a broken bone at some stage can tell when big rains are coming, and this is what we see happen here.

What is so excellent about this piece is how it takes something we often hear about, but few understand. It’s one thing to say someone has chronic pain and can’t do x, y, z, but to truly understand what that must mean is quite different. We see the struggle and what has to happen that we don’t get to see in the general blockbuster movies, and though I’ve only had brief brushes with this type of restriction thanks to ross river, it really, really speaks to me.

Portobello Blind” by Octavia Cade

Anna is a bored and pondering whether she is the sole survivor of the apocalypse. She spends hours fishing in order to eat, (surely so many books/movies get it wrong with how easy some apocalyptic people have it, as collecting drinking water and food for the majority of each day wouldn’t make for good watching – I love how right this gets it), only to hit us with the fact she’s blind, and you’re left worrying how she manages to do anything safely… and the fact is, she doesn’t. She cuts her hands baiting the line, she falls into the waves when she overbalances, trying to catch her escaping fish, and she has to boil a kettle to check the power is still on, and hence, the satellite radio is still working even if no one is answering.

Her strength is amazing, as well as her determination and intelligence to cope and think of what she needs to make this work. Though I agree with her that pineapple would be way better. And that sheep are pretty excellent companions.

Tea Party” by Lauren E. Mitchell

Tally, Bingo, the Count, and Chess, along with a few others, are riding out the end of the world, which came in earthquakes and huge expanses of land disappearing below water. They go shopping every once in a while – mostly to get a slew of medications they can’t exactly grow themselves. In this case Tally and the Count go out – a weird choice for the Count, but Tally’s not complaining. Along the way they meet another surviver, just in time for another glimpse of what the world still has in store for them.

I liked that while this one had a bit of action and excitement in it, that a lot of it was showing how they cared and helped out each other. You really get the feel that they’re going to make anything and everything work somehow, simply because they have to as that’s how life is now.

Giant” by Thoraiya Dyer

Skye, also known as Rhomboid in the Moltorian language, only has chickens for company. Born with pituitary gigantism and poor hearing, it’s almost certain she’ll die if she leaves the microgravity – her circulatory system will shut down if she leaves the ship she’s always been on. There was once a crew on the ship but they wanted to kill her when she was younger because of her affliction – if it wasn’t for her mother and the ship’s doctor, she would have been thrown out an airlock. Hugo, her father, finds her, and wants to help. She just wants to be left alone.

It’s a complicated tale of a girl trapped by guilt and having always waited for her father, yet at the same time wants him to leave her and go back to Earth. She can make it happen – with her size comes strength. What I like about this one especially is how the colours unite the beginning with the end.

Spider-Silk, Strong as Steel” by Samantha Rich

On days when Emm goes hunting, she stays in bed late to get her thoughts in order – a bit of superstition that hasn’t failed her yet. Makes perfect sense to me – more dozing/resting always sounds like a treat. I also agree with Emm’s later thought regarding ‘help’ (people who want to steal her knowledge/secrets) by thinking ‘fuck that, and fuck them.’

Spiders have taken over the Earth? Heck with that. I’m allergic but beyond that they don’t bother me. They freak out a friend though, and because I’m a terrible person I once sent him an email (we work for the same office) with no title/preview, so when he opened it, it was a full screen, very high res closeup photo of a spider. His co-worker reported back to me that he squealed a little and jumped back from his desk, so that was a success.

Emm hunts out spider silk, which is then used for clothes. A rich commodity for trading in this new world. Thank god they don’t have a hive mind though. This piece is one of my favourites (I think the start endeared me to her completely), so highly recommended. Unless you’re like Kane. In that case, read with the lights on because the spiders are detailed quite well.

No Shit” by K. L. Evangelista

Plague has come, and Jane has buried her parents. She looks for other survivors sometimes, but otherwise enjoys the night… until flares light up the sky, and she finds another survivor.

They meet in daylight hours, both careful but eager to meet someone else who has survived – Sam seems nice (AND he can bake!), even if he does read very serious things – ‘Coping with Change’, ‘Compost Toilets’ – very useful considering the time they’re in, but surely all that stress calls for a good bit of relaxation reading. I also love how he’s still all ‘I want to stick together but I don’t want to make you feel like we have to, we don’t HAVE to’ because that’s exactly how I’d be even in a freakin’ apocalypse. Overly polite and thinking others wouldn’t want to have me around even though HELLO, hardly anyone else alive.

They set out in a winnebago to search for other survivors, and so living in close quarters means that soon enough Jane has to tell Sam she has Crohn’s and that while it wasn’t life threatening when there was medicine and doctors around… these days… who knows?

I love the humour in this one. The voice behind it is really quite nice, and I’m really looking forward to seeing more from this author. This is another contender for favourite in the anthology.

I Will Remember You” by Janet Edwards

This piece starts with the words ‘Day Five’, which is such a surprisingly interesting way to start. We soon learn that Megan, sixteen, is going to die within the next few days – everyone  is – by the time sunset arrives on day thirteen. Aliens have arrived and have marked everyone with a few blue dots which will align with how soon they’re due to die. Seeing as Megan was born without a hand – where everyone else has their marks, she’s not to know. She’s received abusive messages demanding to know where her marks are – were they on her arm instead? She didn’t know what to reply with.

This piece is so perfect to end with. The end of the world and the hope directly afterwards is a clean finish, and it’s so dang interesting and complex, yet fits perfectly within the shape of a short story. Yet another contender for ‘favourite’, and I know that this one in particular will be staying in my mind for some time. I’d love to see a follow-up of how they’re going in a few months, and then a few years. Make it happen, Edwards!

~

In the introduction at the start of the anthology, Hoge, (author of Ugly), says ‘People with disability already live in a post-apocalyptic world,’ which is certainly something to think on. This anthology is excellent as examining that.

This anthology is of high quality and needs attention – it’s a complicated thing showing both the drawbacks of having a disability, and also how a disability doesn’t mean you’re an easy kill if zombies attack. We need more visibility in fiction, especially as sometimes, books are all some of us had when ill or in hospital or simply not healthy enough or able to be running around with other kids at recess or in holidays. Surely a higher percentage of disabled children and adults turn to books for adventure over other forms of recreational amusement, so why the hell isn’t there more of this representation around?

Review: Kaleidoscope edited by Alisa Krasnostein & Julia Rios

KaleidoscopeByline Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories
Published by: Twelfth Planet Press
ASBN: B00MFT1S28
ISBN 13: 9781922101129
Published: August 2014
Pages: 437
Format reviewed: eVersion (bought) and paperback (bought)
Publisher Site: Publisher Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five

Kaleidoscope is an anthology of diverse contemporary YA fantasy and science fiction stories that are  fun, edgy, meditative, and feature diverse leads. These twenty original stories tell of scary futures, magical adventures, and the joys and heartbreaks of teenage life.

This anthology was funded by Pozible back in October of 2013 where they stated ‘too often popular culture and media defaults to a very narrow cross section of the world’s populace. We believe that people of all kinds want to see themselves reflected in stories. We also believe that readers actively enjoy reading stories about people who aren’t exactly like them. We want see more stories featuring people who don’t always get the spotlight.

The main characters in Kaleidoscope stories will be part of the QUILTBAG, neuro-diverse, disabled, from non-Western cultures, people of color, or in some other way not the typical straight, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied characters we see all over the place.

That said, these aren’t going to be issue stories. The focus here is contemporary fantasy, and while the characters’ backgrounds will necessarily affect how they engage with the world, we’re not going to have a collection of “Very Special Episode” stories about kids coming to terms with their sexuality/disability/mental illness/cultural identity, etc. We want to see protagonists from all sorts of backgrounds being the heroes of their own journeys.’ 

You can find out more about this anthology from this feature on John Scalzi’s ‘The Big Idea’, where Alisa Krasnostein (editor) discusses the anthology.

If you’d like to buy this highly recommended and enjoyable anthology, please see the publisher’s website here.

Cookie Cutter Superhero” by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Firstly, I hope that this gets developed into a novel someday. Secondly, because of this I’ve already started my nominations list for the Hugos next year – this better get on a the shortlist! Finally – wow. How excellent is it to see a slice of comic book heroes set in Australia! Of course, this being Tansy, every chance is taken to point out how ridiculous females are often portrayed in comic-related media and it’s fabulous. But on to the story.

Across the world there are superhero generator machines, though every country uses theirs differently. England hardly retire their superhero crew, whereas Japan swap theirs around every two weeks. Australia, following the US, do theirs every six months and this time the lottery has picked teen Joey, who has an arm that hasn’t quite developed. In the weeks leading up to when she’ll step into the machine and be transformed into a superhero, she struggles between whether she wants the machine to ‘fix’ her, or if she’s content the way things are.

In this short story we see electric, interesting characters that are displayed to the reader effortlessly. We see slight hints of world building that make you desperate for this to become a novel. And we have the usual wit and superb way of words we can rely upon from Tansy. I say again – HUGO NOMINATION!

Seventh Day of the Seventh Moon” by Ken Liu

Yuan and Jing live in China, in an area where their love for each other – as females – isn’t welcome. It’s Jing’s last night before she goes to America to study, and Yuan is understandably upset by the whole experience.

Through a story she tells to her younger sister so she falls asleep quickly (and Yuan can run out to see Jing one last time), we hear the tale of two lovers kept apart by things outside their control. Sometimes, though you may love someone and though it’s unfair, things just don’t work out. Through Liu’s excellent way with words we see how love that passes still counts as love.

‘You think if we’re no longer in love, then that means the love we had was somehow not real. But the past does not get rewritten. Niulang was the first man I loved, and that would be true no matter how many times I fell in love after him.’

This is such an important message that I wish I’d read this when I was much younger – it would have saved a lot of grief.

The Legend Trap” by Sean Williams

This is a story that’s simply too smart for the likes of me. Though I love science fiction and Doctor Who and all that, you’d think I’d be able to ‘get’ the idea of travelling through space and time, and the issues that could come around through all that – how you can be yourself, but there are many other ‘selves’ who are you, but not you at the same time. Many, many countless different dimensions, and so forth.

This is written in Sean’s Twinmaker series which I love, and I’m so happy to see so many of his recent short stories in various anthologies be set in the same world. This focuses on one of the games teens play in the d-mat booth – we see mentions of this in the series, but here we get to really focus on it. It’s unsettling and odd and what an ending! Even though I don’t quite ‘get’ this as deeply as I should be able to, I enjoyed the adventure immensely, as sad as it was.

End of Service” by Gabriela Lee

A girl barely knows her mother, because in Manila it is common to find work in other countries that pays so much better – double, triple, quadruple what you’d made at home. She grows up living with her father, and very rarely sees her mother who’s practically a stranger to her. Then her mother dies, and she’s expected to feel and react as though someone incredibly close has passed away – something which must be so impossible hard to come to terms with. Do you hate yourself for not feeling anything, or do you hate the situation that’s the cause for why you barely know your own mother?

I like the twist in this one – it’s spooky and pretty gross in how realistically this could come to happen.

Chupacabra’s Song” by Jim Hines

This is the first time I’ve sampled Hines’ writing, I think. I mention that, because I should have read him long ago, or at least directly after meeting him at Continuum in Melbourne this year – he was excellent, and we had a good chat about the comic strip Peanuts – however, my reading has been pretty woeful this year. Hopefully this short story will encourage me to try harder because it was dang excellent.

I like a short story that doesn’t specifically say what a character has – it just shows it. This shows us a young teen who works with her father in his veterinary clinic, and has the ability of using magic through music. She learns that even those you may feel similar to for what makes you different, doesn’t exactly mean that automatically makes them good people. Inside, she has the courage to do what she knows is right. Altogether this is an uplifting story of a girl who does hard things because they’re the right thing to do.

The Day the God Died” by Alena McNamara

Well, this one made me cry. I can’t take animals being hurt in books or tv/movies, and though this wasn’t an animal, the way it was written made it damn similar. It’s a simple tale where so much happens without a whole lot of plot – in a good way. The details are slipped in so simply to really compound how this is such a normal occurrence – it’s simply life, nothing grand or Big Dramatic Plot about it – which makes it all so real.

This one has a lot of impact, and it’s done so simply. Well done, McNamara.

Signature” by Faith Mudge

I loved the characters in this, they were so bright and descriptive and fun. The enemy in this is so easy to hate also – everyone’s probably met someone so close to this, vindictive for no reason and simply nasty – kinda like how Umbridge is more hated than Voldemort.

The resolution in this one comes a little close as being too easy, but just manages to pull it off. It’s especially saved by the ‘I didn’t think that would work!’ follow up, and the way the characters close up at the end. Priya egging on Kabir is especially sweet. This is probably one of my favourites, especially for how the bookstore is described – I want to go there!

The Lovely Duckling” by Tim Susman

Another that’s disturbing in how accurate it could be if shapeshifting were possible, and otherwise pretty spot on for transgender people, which is always sad to read and hear of. I always enjoy stories that are told through a range of mediums – in this case, memos, phone records and letters.

A good resolution that leaves you with hope – I would love to see this one expanded into a novella.

Kiss and Kiss and Kiss and Tell” by E. C. Myers

Ahh, drug use. It always make me a little uncomfortable to read of, but I’m glad they included it in here. The recklessness teens have when it comes to recreational drugs, but then the embarrassment and shame felt when drugs are needed for whatever reason – schizophrenia in this case – is explored as we witness typical teenagers and precognition. I really enjoyed this piece – I love the idea behind it, and how it was handled.

Vanilla” by Dirk Flinthart

This one certainly ends in a way I wasn’t expecting, and the title is really quite clever. This one shows how hard it is for those trapped between cultures. Kylie Howard – named for an Australian singer and the prime minister at the time this story is set – is Somali but born in Australia. Her father is determined for her to be considered Australian, but only by his standards – she can’t dress or act the way other Aussie girls do, that’s for sure.

She befriends a few individuals who are in the same boat, so to speak, as she is – aliens who have lost their planet to a disaster, and have been split up and integrated into the community in small groups. In this, Kylie is sweet and innocent, not really understanding how to act or what to do as everything that feels right is considered ‘wrong’ by whoever happens to be interfering at the time. Not knowing how to interact with other females is something that really spoke to me in this one.

Careful Magic” by Karen Healey

Another of my instant favourites. I love magic in an urban setting, especially school-based. I love the characters, and I love the careful view of OCD and the confirmation that the OCD wasn’t what made the protagonist so excellent at magic.

The characters are what make this sing – you see typical school personalities, the hot girl and so on, and how other kids can be so cruel, but throughout all the characters felt real and varied, like they actually existed rather than were just ‘that way’ because ‘all schools’ have the hot and popular students, and so on.

I love Karen Healey’s writing. Incidentally, we need another ‘When We Wake’ novel!

Walkdog” by Sofia Samatar

This is one of those short stories you aren’t sure you’re really on board with, until it all comes together whilst also swatting you around the head for good measure. Not exactly one of my favourites, but effective all the same. Written in essay-format, complete with extensive footnotes which really give the sassy-style of the young author, this is a powerful piece of writing.

Celebration” by Sean Eads

One of the more shocking ones, at least in the setting of the piece – a summer program for gay males to be ‘reprogrammed’, mostly shocking because it’s the type of thing that sadly exists in our world as it is today.

Other than that, this wasn’t as strong as some of the other pieces – I didn’t feel the terror of the characters, nor why they clung together – I could understand why and I felt the plot itself was rather good, but I didn’t otherwise feel much for this as much as I have had for the other pieces. The message in this one – what would alien’s be left to think if they came to judge whether or not our world was worthy of not – seemed to be somewhat lacking.

The Truth About Owls” by Amal El-Mohtar

A young Lebanese girl is in Scotland, and is left to deal with being another lost to cross-cultural ties. Little comments in this one like how even her interest in learning Welsh is questioned – why not Arabic?, her mother instantly asks – and just shows how one must both excel and fit into their new life whilst also embracing their heritage which doesn’t leave much room for personal interests.

I loved this one for the interest in owls, a creature I also love. You really feel for the main character in this one (which is what I think I was hoping for in the previous story, where you feel for them all as a whole, but not really the protagonist). This is a strong piece where you really feel the struggle, and the simple ending is heart-warming and satisfying.

Krishna Blue” by Shveta Thakrar

About a girl who discovers she can feed of colour itself, this is a mad and energetic rollicking tale that’s quite harsh and frightening. We probably all know someone who’s been quite talented with art, only for their family to be dismissive of it in terms of what they should be doing with their life longterm – if not knowing of someone like that, then as that person ourself. The descriptions of colour and the names for the colours given are magnificent, the characters are quite lovely and so real, and what an ending! You really feel for the protagonist in this one.

Every Little Thing” by Holly Kench

This is another that has little Big Plot in it, and is mostly character driven – my favourite kind! The characters have explosive, identifiable personality and you get so much from this one from such few words. This is just a really sweet little story, showing how excellent friends can be and how the best people are those who put up with your little quirks. This is an engaging piece, and it’s always amusing to see short stories that compliment each other in the same anthology. You want to throw a copy at the protagonist so she can read ‘Careful Magic’ and think twice before she performs that particular spell! This one has a nice ending to it also – nice and simple, realistic, kinda a non-event but hey, that’s life, isn’t it?

Happy Go Lucky” by Garth Nix

I didn’t really know what to make of this one. It didn’t really grab me, but… it’s Garth Nix. What is wrong with me? It takes on messages of refugees, boat people and that horrible journey in a desperate plea to a better life. It also shows that really kind of messed up Government where they can lie and throw your whole family into squalor for the wrong move.

I didn’t really connect to the protagonist in this one – I couldn’t really believe the way she spoke or acted in general, or interacted with her fathers.

Ordinary Things” by Vylar Kaftan

A sad, hard story, of a girl with something similar to OCD who is struggling to cope through a breakup with a particularly nasty person. She struggles to cope with her rituals and certain things she thinks of as safe, like certain exact times shown on a clock. This one was a bit unsettling, really. It kinda ends in hope, but I would have liked to see the friendship explored in a different way – friendship and nothing else, and there remaining strong by the end also.

Double Time” by John Chu

An interesting look at the use of technology. In a world where you can time travel for a few minutes by use of a watch-type instrument on your wrist (so is there the ability to travel longer with bigger pieces of tech, maybe?) we see it used by figure skaters in order to watch themselves perform (you can’t really get an idea for speed via video, apparently) or even skate with themselves for duo performances.

We see a young girl driven hard to please her mother who never has words to show how proud she is. She steals time from herself in order to use the piece of tech to practise at doubling with herself to skate well enough to win – even though it then takes her by surprise when she manages it.

Quite bittersweet, and excellently written. But it’s John Chu – like the poor girl in this piece, we expect fine, fine things from him.

Welcome” by William Alexander

A short and sweet piece ending with hope, which is a pretty perfect end to this excellent anthology. A fantastical bridge connects the Earth to the Moon, a crossing made possible at certain times when the planet and moon drift close enough together. This is the only chance a young boy gets to see his sister and mother, and though it’s filled with pain (the issue of his body not used to being on the moon) he still loves it.

Circumstance throw him and his sister out to another crossing – one that will make history – and his sister’s infectious nature is wonderful.

~

Although I never would have expected it to turn out this way, I review a lot of anthologies. For 2011 and 2012 I judged the anthologies/collections category of the Aurealis Awards, before that I (like most people) picked up anthologies like Dreaming Down-Under and The New Space Opera in order to find new authors to love when I was still developing my speculative fiction tastes. Nowadays it seems I review a fair amount of anthologies. So taking that experience into consideration, let me say how much I adored this anthology. It is easily one of my favourites, right up there with The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination: Original Short Fiction for the Modern Evil Genius edited by John Joseph Adams, and Phantazein edited by Tehani Wessely.

TTT – Favourite Shorts

TTT

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.

Favourite Shorts

Today I’m discussing my favourite short fiction, whether they’re classed technically as a short story, novella or novelette, listed in no particular order.

1. A Year and a Day in Old Theradane by Scott Lynch

As we all know I am a firm fan of Scott Lynch. Until this piece came out, my favourite short of his was In the Stacks, but this one managed to edge out in front. It helps that I heard the start read by Scott at Brighton’s World Fantasy Con in 2013. Why do I love it? The wit, the elegance of the language, and the fun dialogue.

2. Night of Cake & Puppets (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2.5) by Laini Taylor

Goodness this piece makes you want to punch love in the face, it’s just so ridiculously well done, so cute, and of course, well written. She takes a crush, slight awkward flirting, and the all important ‘how to ask someone out’ and makes such a grand fairy-tale of it all, yet also manages to make it all possible. She’s amazing.

3. The Lightning Tree by Patrick Rothfuss

This follows a day in the life of Bast, which is all one should have to say on this, really. It’s Bast. Especially when it revolves around people coming to him saying ‘I need a lie.’ Overall, this is a lovely tale, though also a little worrying. Rothfuss is a magician of words.

4. Legion (Legion #1) by Brandon Sanderson

The growing realisation as you read this is excellent. We have a man whose unique mental condition allows him to contain multiple personalities – hallucinatory entities with a wide variety of highly specialised skills. I’m so very glad we’re getting a second novella from this short series.

5. Little Knife (The Grisha #2.6) by Leigh Bardugo

Though all of Bardugo’s writing is amazing, this would have to be my favourite short of hers. It tells of a beautiful daughter, who learns the curse of being beautiful as she discovers how terrible a parent can be, with so little regard for their own kin. As with her other shorts, this has the sense of fable about it, which makes it simply beautiful to read.

6. Twixt Firelight and Water (Sevenwaters #5.5) by Juliet Marillier

Set in the Sevenwaters series, Lady Oonagh cast a curse over her own child. Now a druid, an ill-tempered raven and an adventurous young woman are drawn together as the time approaches for the evil magic to be undone. Being Marillier’s writing, this is engaging and impossible to put down.

7. The Fisherman’s Net (Vestigial Tales #2) by Laura Lam

A very beautiful, brutal tale of a fisherman and what he manages to catch, and what happens when he’s just too greedy. I loved that justice was served, and the language in this is utterly beautiful with how it describes the creature within.

8. The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere by John Chu

Read for the Hugo Awards, this one easily won my vote. Set in the future, they live in a world where water will fall on you out of nowhere if you lie – and how heavy the rain is depends on the strength of your lie. It also deals with cultural issues, and so perfectly captures family dynamics. I loved it.

9. Tip of the Tongue (Doctor Who 50th Anniversary E-Shorts #5) by Patrick Ness

Easily my favourite short in the ‘11 Doctors, 11 Stories‘ anthology that came out for the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who. The Fifth Doctor and Nyssa travel to a small town in 1945 where ‘Truth Tellers’ are a craze sweeping the town – little objects that do as their name says… but of course, being Doctor Who, this is much more sinister than first thought.

10. Words Like Coins (Realms of the Elderlings novella) by Robin Hobb

Well it’s Robin Hobb, and it’s a Farseer short, and it deals with pecksies. It’s also illustrated throughout, which adds to how wonderful it is to read. Classic Hobb, good moral, and gets you to think of the literal meaning and the depth of your words.