Amber smirked and started humming along with the muzak on the customer service line. It was a much-softened version of Twisted Sister’s "We’re Not Go
Amber smirked and started humming along with the muzak on the customer service line. It was a much-softened version of Twisted Sister’s "We’re Not Gonna Take It." "You’re kidding," said Jane. Amber said, "That’s what they’re playing." She hit the speakerphone button. A hundred and one violinists were not gonna take it anymore. -Sarah Avery, "Closing Arguments" (in Tales from Rugosa Coven)
In Sarah Avery's Tales from Rugosa Coven, a small pagan group on the Jersey Shore must come to terms with discovering that the things they believe in are real--as are many things they don't believe in as well. I've read two of the three novellas before they were compiled, and am eagerly looking forward to the third.
These stories are funny, magical, and deeply character driven. Reading Tales from Rugosa Coven>, you will connect with the characters on a personal level, but you will also laugh out loud. Among the funniest things I've read, the stories in this book rank second, below Connie Willis' Bellwether and above The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Yet these tales are more than just funny. "Closing Arguments" addresses grief and loss while nimbly juggling Christian, Wiccan, and Theosophical theologies and ideas of the afterlife as two coven members cope with the loss of their parents. "Atlantis Cranks" handles themes of love, alienation, and the unknown.
[Disclosure: The author is a personal friend, and we've worked together on an anthology (coming this year from Fantastic Books), but man, these stories kick ass and take unpronounceable names.]
Update, March 17: I picked up two copies at the book launch on Saturday, and finally started in on "And Ria's from Virgo." I forgot how good these stories are. I mean, I remembered in my mind that I had loved reading "Closing Arguments" and "Atlantis Cranks Need Not Apply," but I forgot the visceral and very specific feeling of enjoying these particular books....more
OK...8 pages of exposition where all that happens is kids meet in the woods to eat bread with goat cheese. In a dystopic world where society is compleOK...8 pages of exposition where all that happens is kids meet in the woods to eat bread with goat cheese. In a dystopic world where society is completely broken down, and everyone works in a mine. But they still have public schools. And woods beyond the city that flourish with edible, uncontaminated food. And wild strawberries that you can pick by the gallon.
The characters seemed like they might be interesting, if I could keep reading. But I just couldn't get past the strawberries....more
This author is patient, confident, and very perceptive. Five chapters in, and the leads are still getting their bearings, adjusting to life with humanThis author is patient, confident, and very perceptive. Five chapters in, and the leads are still getting their bearings, adjusting to life with humans, and have barely ventured out into New York City to meet their communities, let alone each other. Yet you feel for them and their predicament, and the lives of the people around them, and some they have yet to meet.
Update, April 5: Wow. Just wow.
Is this the best book I've read since One Hundred Years of Solitude? Possibly not. But a case could be made. ...more
I'm very happy to be a part of this book. Out of 12 stories, every single one had a flash of brillance somewhere within, and I didn't find a single stI'm very happy to be a part of this book. Out of 12 stories, every single one had a flash of brillance somewhere within, and I didn't find a single story I didn't like.
Overall, the stories in this book don't just explore gender but also the space between darkness and light, always seeming to bring up a flash of doubt within glory or a moment of beauty in despair. The book starts on a relatively bright note with "The Secret Name of the Prince" by Alma Alexander, and gets subtly darker until...well, I don't want to give away the ending. But often there is something redemptive, when you don't expect it.
Themes and tropes are sometimes repeated, in a rippling sort of way, but no two stories are alike, and there is a surprising wealth of different approaches to the central theme of the book: a young nobleman is raised as a woman to hide him from usurpers, a goddess becomes a man so her brothers will let her go into battle, a young man becomes a woman to follow in his mother's footsteps, a dragon becomes a woman in order to court a lesbian, and other, more convoluted reasons. And of course there are recreational transformations as well.
The rippling of themes and tropes is also something that Michael M. Jones does especially well in choosing and arranging the stories in this book. Even as the expected themes go through multiple variations and iterations, there are unexpected parallels that pop up again and again, giving the feeling of a single hand behind it all. I don't think I could have asked for a better story than Shanna Germain's "How to Dance while Drowning," about a burlesque dancer looking for his big break, to set the stage for my own "Lady Marmalade's Special Place in Hell," which closes the volume. Lady Marmalade is a story I'm particularly proud of, and I am thrilled that it found itself such exquisite surroundings.
"The Daemons of Tairdean Town" by C.S. McCath is also an especially well-crafted story, in which a traveler draws up people's shadow selves and suppressed desires, so that they can seek out the dreams they've hidden from themselves.
But again, I found no bad stories in this book. Some are heavier, others are lighter. Some might not accomplish everything they set out to. But all carry moments of wonder, and all accomplish something unexpected....more
Charming story of a dog who can't contain her excitement. Artwork is expressive and very funny--more than enough to make up for the kind of poor draftCharming story of a dog who can't contain her excitement. Artwork is expressive and very funny--more than enough to make up for the kind of poor draftsmanship....more
I don't know if it's fair to give a book a five-star rating when you've only read one story, because then you may have to revise it downward but you cI don't know if it's fair to give a book a five-star rating when you've only read one story, because then you may have to revise it downward but you can never revise it up. But the opening story of this book is one of the best I've ever read.
This book arrived in a shipment on Hallowe'en morning, and I started reading it to my son the same night. Read 3 chapters in a row, and it's amazing.This book arrived in a shipment on Hallowe'en morning, and I started reading it to my son the same night. Read 3 chapters in a row, and it's amazing. Might pick up the 5th star by the time I finish.
What I love the most is how much the mice are really mice. I mean, the author anthropomorphizes a lot--giving them tables and blankets, and there's even one mouse who makes medicines out of roots and herbs. But their needs, their fears, are the needs and fears of mice. Even as Mrs. Frisby is going to visit the apothecary, the author tells in perfect detail how she keeps an eye out for hiding places and watches for the cat.
And the fears that would frighten a mouse are always there, in just the right level. It is a scary book because it is written at mouse level, in a world very much like the world as it is, with all the things that are a danger to a mouse....more
They put my name on the COVER! My NAME on the cover! My...
How cool is that?
I'd like this book anyway, but I like it even more with my name on that bThey put my name on the COVER! My NAME on the cover! My...
How cool is that?
I'd like this book anyway, but I like it even more with my name on that brilliant blue cover.
It's almost twice as thick as last year's, but still worth a read.
Story by story:
"A Claw from the Western Paradise," by Gwendolyn Clare, is a good start. A dragon tasked with guarding the bones of the ancients must decide what to do when a human he'd rather talk to than eat comes and asks for a single claw.
"The Good Daughter" by Aaron Polson. I will have to read this one again. It deals with a heart-wrenching conundrum, and it mostly does it well, but I get annoyed when writers expect me to accept a hero who more or less shares my values, in a society that does not, without saying why. On the other hand, it may be something that was there that I just missed, because something else that bothered me (which I can't say without giving spoilers) made perfect sense the next morning, after I'd remembered a turn of phrase that made it make total sense.
"Ghost Horses and Dream Dogs" by Shanna Germain. Sheer brilliance. A retired jockey living with the after-images left behind race horses and greyhounds, dreading the record-keeper who will come by and erase a few, to make room for more. It seems like many of the best stories in Triangulaton take you out in the middle of nowhere, without a map, and leave you to find your own way home. And this does it so well.
"The Gold in the Straw" by Amanda C. Davis. Not one of my favorite fairy tales. Not a particularly original twist. And yet, so beautifully written that it still left me saying "Wow."
"The Bright Air That Breathes No Pain" by Eric Schaller. The ending was neither as strong ad I'd hoped nor as weak as I'd feared it would be. But the road to that ending was vivid and believable and fierce, filled with odd observations and metaphors, and sometimes sad and beautiful.
"Boll Weevil" by Nathaniel Lee. I'm not normally a fan of apocalyptic fiction, but this was fun.
“The Customs Shed” by John Walters. A dark, compelling take on the afterlife.
“Ezekiel” by Desmond Warzel. Early American colonists discover a robot from outer space. The period narrative is spot on.
“Ocean Daughters” by Jaime Lee Moyer. She wrote one of my favorite stories in last year's anthology. This year she tells of a woman on the shore, waiting for her fisherman to return. A new take on a classic trope, with a strong female lead.
“City of Bones” by Deborah Walker. Far-future SF about people accustomed to living in cyberspace who use cloned bodies to visit the long-abandoned Earth. Kind of abstract but very intense.
“In Ruins” by Jo-Anne Odell. Four servant mummies have been spending millennia playing board games and looking all over the pyramid for the Books of the Dead that their undertaker hid out of spite, when they must deal with an infestation of archaeologists. This story goes from funny to heroic to deeply touching.
“Lord God Bird” by Sarah Frost. A team traverses parallel universes in search of an extinct bird, but in world after world, they find the bird is extinct. Intriguing.
“Norms” by Cynthia Ward. The title refers simultaneously to a far-future slang term for people who don't have genetic modifications (at a time when almost everyone does) and to norms in the sense of shared cultural values (on which no two characters seem to agree). Different prejudices and values lead the principal characters to different choices and different mistakes, ultimately isolating them all in an unkind city. Thoughtful, disturbing, and very intelligent. And a little gross.
“To Rule, Do Nothing” by Tristan Davenport. A man makes a fortress of a desolate world, so he can keep himself safe from the repercussions of his own act of revenge. Not a personal favorite.
“Zafir the Saudi Superhero” by Madhvi Ramani. This, on the other hand, is my favorite story in the book. A kid seeks superhuman powers so he can avenge his sister's death. Heart-wrenching and well told--and you don't know how it ends. Based on an actual event in which Saudi police let girls burn to death in a dormitory rather than let them be seen outside in their nightgowns.
“Twilight’s Last Gleaming” by H.L.N. Fullergon. Teenagers sit on a rooftop and watch rockets try to get off Earth to escape an alien threat that may, in fact, be a government hoax to cut back on overpopulation. Touching, and really depressing.
“Lack of Charity” by James Beamon. Kept alive by a demon, a man goes on a killing spree until he can find the man who murdered his wife and almost killed him too. Well told and compelling, but kind of predictable.
“To Give the Perfect Dewdrop” by Dawn Lloyd. A spritelike being tries to bring the perfect gift to an indifferent creator. OK.
“The Party” by Christopher N. Nadeau. A convicted killer escapes into a parallel universe by finding the right person to fixate on, but must
“The Reel” Helen Tarzwell's impressive debut publication tells of an ancient fae who abandoned her heritage to marry a bus driver.
“The Last Cyborg” by Mar Yang. I was in Marquette, Michigan, visiting family and friends, when I found out that the lead-in to my story takes place in Michigan and includes an aging beauty queen from Marquette. And the story's good, too. The inventor of cybernetic enhancements must deal with news reports of the deaths of all the patients he tried to help.
“A Feast of Kings” by David Sklar My story in "Last Contact" is a dark, bizarre piece that was inspired by a line from a hymn on folk radio, twisted in a direction the songwriter never would have imagined, and allowed to steep until it took me to hideous places. I still don't entirely know what the story is about, but it deals in sex, violence, cannibalism, sorcery, self-torture, Egyptian magic, and talking cats.
“The Charnel Pit” by Stephen Gaskell. Six servants are put to death to keep them from revealing where they buried the Emperor with all his earthly goods. One stays behind as a ghost to take vengeance on the Emperor and provide for his wife and unborn child. Exotic and compelling.
“God in the Machine” by Charles Brownson. An amusing steampunk romp.
"Seedling" by Eric Zovovic. An abandoned spaceship contemplates Eastern thought and tries to determine its next incarnation. Brief, well-written, and intriguing.
“The Loss of Pain” by Amy Treadwell. Another very talented author from past Triangulation anthologies takes you into a tale of knights who returned from the Crusades with leprosy, and went back to war just the same. Excellent in many ways, not the least of which is her ability to elicit sympathy with and even a bit of rooting for people whose cause I don't really agree with. Regardless of the rightness or wrongness of the Crusades, the heroism and tragic loss keeps this tale compelling to the end.
“Mikeys” by Robert J. Sawyer. I would have rather ended with the Treadwell story, but this one is also a decent read. About two astronauts who don't get to walk on Mars but set up a command module on a Martian moon to support the men who will. A science fiction story in the classic style, complete with over-explanation of details that are sometimes, but not always, intriguing enough to be worth the digression.
When I was much younger, a 10th-grade vocabulary quiz had a word I couldn't remember how to spell or to define. Knowing that any answer I gave would bWhen I was much younger, a 10th-grade vocabulary quiz had a word I couldn't remember how to spell or to define. Knowing that any answer I gave would be way off, my attempt to use the word in a sentence read, "The psychophant pulled back the curtain with his trunk and stabbed her to death with his tusks."
I don't know if a record of that answer exists anywhere, but this book is a collection of exactly that sort of answers from students who knew they would lose the point but decided to go for laughs. And a few where they may actually have believed what they were saying. My wife picked it up in Barnes & Noble for something to read while the kids were at the train table in the store, and I laughed so hard I had to take it home.
Some of my favorites:
Q. Describe the term "stakeholder." A. A vampire hunter. Buffy being the most famous.
Q. Write the first and second laws of thermodynamics. A. First rule of thermodynamics is you do not talk about thermodynamics. Second rule of thermodynamics is you do not talk about thermodynamics.
My only disappointment with this book (aside from the absence of my own answer from the 10th grade) is that it was finished way too quickly....more
sometimes a brilliant sequel outshines the original. Sometimes a lackluster sequel disappoints after a brilliant original. This, however, is a sequelsometimes a brilliant sequel outshines the original. Sometimes a lackluster sequel disappoints after a brilliant original. This, however, is a sequel that is well worthy of its brilliant predecessor....more