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Book review: Wendy, Darling by A.C. Wise

There is a boy outside her daughter’s window. Wendy feels it, like a trickle of starlight whispering in through a gap, a change in the very pressure and composition of the air. She knows, as sure as her own blood and bones, and the knowledge sends her running. Her hairbrush clatters to the floor in her wake; her bare feet fly over carpeted runners and slap wooden floorboards, past her husband’s room and to her daughter’s door. It is not just any boy, it’s the boy. Peter.     A.C. Wise’s debut novel instantly pulled me in with these evocative first lines. “The horror-tinged feminist Peter Pan retelling I never knew I needed,” says one of the blurbs on the back of this book (by writer Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam), and that is an apt description indeed. This is a fabulously dark and gorgeous reimagining of the Peter Pan story, one that goes to surprising places. And though Neverland, in Wise’s telling, is indeed magical, Wendy’s life as an adult in the real world of post-World War I London

Short fiction recs! May-June 2021

  This roundup is way overdue, and I also confess that I haven’t read as much as usual these last two months. I do note that I’ve found myself particularly drawn to dark fiction and horror of late, and these selections reflect that. But though many of these are stories of darkness and horror, there are also stories of beauty, hope, and love. . . and stories in which all of these coexist.       Darkness and Horror “Of Claw and Bone” by Suzan Palumbo in The Dark Your mother begins collecting the tiny skulls as soon as the flutter of your limbs causes her heart to skip. She curates each specimen, ensuring it originates from a disparate source: A mouse carcass picked from a ravine trail; a desiccated red squirrel shipped from her sister out East; a marmot, snared in a field three hours from the village.   A strange and striking story of a world where people choose animal bones to represent themselves—bones that represent their personalities, and perhaps influence their persona

Book review: Local Star by Aimee Ogden (novella)

Disclaimer: This review is based on a review copy given to me by the publisher, Interstellar Flight Press, in exchange for an honest review. The Confederated Fleet has returned victorious from war, and all Triz wants is to join in the celebration—and especially to spend time with her war hero girlfriend, Casne. What Triz definitely does not want is to be stuck working late in the wrenchworks repairing her ex-boyfriend’s fighter craft—her ex-boyfriend Kalo, who is also a war hero and cocky as hell. But when Triz finally does get away for the celebration, the party is cut short when her girlfriend Casne is framed for a war crime. Now Triz has to team up with Kalo to clear her girlfriend’s name, uncover a conspiracy, and fight off a threat to the space habitat itself. Oh, and along the way she’ll also confront her past and insecurities, and perhaps resolve and rekindle some feelings for her ex. . .   Sometimes, author Aimee Ogden writes in the Acknowledgements section of this book,

Short fiction recs! March-April 2021

  I thought that I didn’t get much reading done last month, but I present to you seventeen short story recs today, and there is still more amazing fiction that I didn’t have time to list here. I know we often say this on repeat, but it’s true: we’re living in a golden age of short stories.   Khōréō Magazine Issue 1.1 Khōréō is a new quarterly magazine, dedicated to “elevating the voices of immigrant and diaspora authors.”  The editors are particularly interested in fiction that explores themes of migration, and this shows clearly in their debut issue. The stories here brim with themes of family, diaspora, generational loss and change; with belonging and reclamation and what it means to make a home. These are fresh and surprising stories, that have innovative forms and put new twists on old tropes. I wanted to share each of the stories in this issue, because they are all worth reading, and this is a magazine that is worth watching.   “The Impossible Weight of Han” by Maria Do

Book thoughts and quote: Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang

  I’ve finished reading Jung Chang’s  Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China , the classic memoir of one family’s experiences in China through Japanese occupation, the start of the Communist revolution, the utter madness of the Cultural Revolution, and beyond. Nearly every page provokes horror and outrage and incredulity, although there are also stories of stunning courage and human kindness. I started this book because I wanted to better understand how a nation gives into a charismatic dictator and slides into madness. I still don’t understand, no more than I understand certain events and movements of our present time.   There are so many passages that I underlined while reading this book. Passages relevant to our current time, passages depicting mass delusion and hysteria, a fevered cult of personality, zealotry, scapegoating, political cowardice, and the use of politics to grift and settle petty personal feuds.   Of the many passages I’ve underlined, I think of this one now, whi

Book review: Lagoonfire by Francesca Forrest

  This is a follow-up to Forrest’s first novelette from Annorlunda Books, An Inconvenient God. Both books star Decommissioner Thirty-Seven, known as “Sweeting” to her friends. However, both books can be read independently; I loved An Inconvenient God (here’s my capsule review  at the end of this post!), but you do not need to read it first to enjoy Lagoonfire ! But if you did enjoy the first book, you will love the follow-up, which deepens our understanding of Sweeting, her past, and her world. Sweeting is a decommissioner at the Ministry of Divinities; her job is to officially retire, or “decommission” gods who are fading away due to a lack of human worshippers. Years ago, Sweeting had decommissioned Laloran-morna, god of the warm ocean waves of Sweet Harbor. She successfully retired Laloran-morna into mortal form, but something went wrong: even as a mortal, he retains aspects of his old divinity. Now flooding has disrupted the commercial development of an estuary in Sweet Harbor,

New story! "A Vial of Electric Blue" is now out at Fusion Fragment Magazine

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I have a new story out today! “A Vial of Electric Blue” appears in Issue #5 of Fusion Fragment Magazine, a lovely new journal that publishes science fiction and science fiction-tinged stories, often with a surreal bent. My story is most definitely on the strange and surreal side. It’s about isolation and imprisonment, the rage of women and girls, and strange lakes of electric-blue fire. The accompanying illustration is by KiTT St. Joans, and they’ve done a stunning job; I’m in love with their art. You can see more of ST. Joans’ art here .    And by following the link on my story title above, you can download the entire issue to read (for free, or pay what you like).   Fusion Fragment is unusual among new SFF journals in that it offers print copies of their magazine as well as digital! I got my contributor’s copy last week, and it’s the first time I’ve ever held a print journal with my work in it! And I’ve already read and loved some of the stories in this issue, which explore int

Short fiction recs! Jan-Feb 2021

  It’s March. As people have been saying online, it feels as though it’s always been March. A year since the pandemic truly hit American shores. Time has been distorted since then, and the last few months here in America have felt particularly surreal, twisting and pulling time out of all recognition.   But after a bitterly cold freeze, it’s warming out now where I live, and Spring hesitantly steps near. And some amazing fiction has been published in the last few months—dark, angry, strange, beautiful, and lit with hope. Here’s some of what I’ve loved.   Stories in Strange Horizons "The Karyobinga Sings to Jiro" by Ryu Ando Are we truly all the same person?  he said aloud to the darkness.  Is my pain everyone’s pain? A just-over-flash-length-piece of grief and mystery. Jiro is an elderly widower in a dying small town, grieving the loss of his wife. He lives alone, and his son is trying to get him to move. And then one day a mysterious bird appears in the night,