short story


A collection of science fiction short stories by very influential women writers. The oldest was written in 1933 and the newest 1989.

Publication year: 2016
Format: print
Page count: 267
Publisher: Baen

Lots of people are saying the women don’t write, and publish, science fiction. That’s simply not true. As Rusch shows us in her “Introduction: Invisible Women” women have been writing SF since the beginning of the genre attracting readers and winning awards. But readers and critics, both men and women, have many, many ways of marginalizing and outright forgetting women. They write in wrong subgenre, have wrong themes, the science is outdated etc. etc. ad nasaum. Well, Rusch and Baen are now bringing back some of the ignored women whom the younger generation of readers, and writers!, don’t know.

Much to my surprise this collection has only one writer I haven’t heard of before: Zenna Henderson. Actually, I’ve read only one story from these before: Bujold’s Aftermaths. So, I was delighted to read these stories and I dearly hope there will be more.

The stories are in a variety of styles and sub genres from horror to pulp fiction to time travel. I liked the introductions, too, because Rusch tells us the awards and honors these writers have won and the way they’ve influenced each other and the whole genre.

“The Indelible Kind” by Zenna Henderson (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, December 1968): Miss Murcher is a teacher in a small school and Vincent comes to her school. Vincent is eight but he can’t read much. Otherwise, he’s very bright boy and perhaps something more.
This is one of the quieter stories, with the Other as its theme.

“The Smallest Dragonboy” by Anne McCaffrey (Science Fiction Tales, 1973): Keevan is barely twelve and the smallest of the boys who want to be dragonriders. But the more he’s bullied and teased by the oldest boy, the more he’s determined to impress a dragon hatchling.
It’s been decades since I read Pern books but this story brought the setting right back and made me want to read some of the Pern books I haven’t read.

“Out of All Them Bright Stars” by Nancy Kress (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March, 1985): Sally works in a diner. The US government has contact with aliens but Sally and her friends have only seen them on TV. Until one walks into the diner.

“Angel” by Pat Cadigan (Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, June 1987): Angel is the main character’s (MC) friend. He communicates with the MC without words and do all sorts of little tricks. Then Angel sees a strange woman he clearly fears.

“Cassandra” by C.J. Cherryh (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, October 1978): One of my favorite authors but I don’t think I’ve read her short fiction before.
The people call her Crazy Alis because to her only she is a solid person. Other people are grey ghosts walking around in a town which is in flames and crumbling down. Medicines take away her nightmares and allow her to sleep, but they don’t take away the things she sees when she’s awake.

“Shambleau” by C.L. Moore (Weird Tales, November, 1933): The oldest story in the collection mixes pulp fiction and horror.
Northwest Smith is an intergalactic smuggler and not the most gallant of men. But when he sees a girl running from a murderous crowd, he rescues her and even gives her a place to sleep. However, the girl isn’t human and then his real troubles begin.

“The Last Days of Shandakor” by Leigh Brackett (Startling Stories, April 1952): Another pulp story but this time with the subject of lost city. Set in Mars in Brackett’s Eric John Stark universe where Mars, Venus, and some of the other planets are habitable and have their own humanlike people.
John Ross in a man from Earth but he lives on Mars. He studies the local peoples and places. Then he sees a man who doesn’t look like anyone else John has ever seen. He calls himself Corin and at first he refuses to take John to his city, which is apparently dying. But reluctantly he agrees and the two set into a desert on the road to Shandakor.

“All Cats Are Gray” by Andre Norton (Fantastic Universe, August/September 1953): Cliff Moran is a down-of-his-luck captain. Steena of the Spaceways, and her gray cat Bat, are a legend among the spacefarers. When she says that the legendary haunted luxury liner Empress of Mars is drifting close by, Cliff believes her and they head out to capture it.

“Aftermaths” by Lois McMaster Bujold (Far Frontiers: The Paperback Magazine of Science Fiction and Speculative Fact, Volume V, Spring 1986): Bujold is one of my favorite authors. I’ve read this little gem several times.

Falco Ferrell is a pilot and new to the Personnel Retrieval and Identification branch of the Escobaran space military. He and his new partner, MedTech Tersa Boni, have been assigned the rubble of space battle. Their task is to retrieve the bodies, identify them, and send them home. But soon, Falco starts to suspect that Tersa has been in the service for too long.

“The Last Flight of Doctor Ain” by James Tiptree, Jr. (Galaxy, March 1969): Doctor Ain travels around the world and everywhere he goes, people fall sick.

“Sur” by Ursula K. Le Guin (The New Yorker, February 1, 1982): This story is alternate history without any SF elements.
Since she was a little girl, the main character has been fascinated by the reports and books by men who have gone to the South Pole. But the dream of going there herself has seen unattainable, until she gathers a group of determined women who share her dream.

“Fire Watch” by Connie Willis (Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, February 15, 1982): A story about the time traveling historians! I can’t believe I haven’t heard of this one.

Time traveling to the past is hard. But it’s even harder when you’ve been preparing to walk with Saint Paul himself – and are sent instead to St. Paul’s in the middle of air raids. The main character tries to prepare as well as possible, but it might not be enough.

Not all of these stories worked for me but most of them are strong and some of them are real gems.

Rusch has a related website: http://www.womeninsciencefiction.com/

By the way, some of Leigh Brackett’s work is available on Audible.com if you like audio books.

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A short story collection about… the end of the world.

Publication year: 2016
Format: ebook, epub
Page count: 252
Publisher: WMG publishing

As you might expect, these are pretty intense stories. All of them are emotional, one way or another. I’m actually not a huge fan of apocalypse stories, except for Terminator movies (and in them, it’s about avoiding the end of the world) but most of these I liked. Most of them are chilling stories, one way or another. When society’s rules break down, some people will only think of themselves but fortunately not all. Otherwise, humanity wouldn’t have evolved to have a society at all. This seems to be something that people are forgetting these days.

I think every story ends the world in a different way. I’m not entirely sure if I should enjoy the creativity or find it chilling.

The stories have been divided into several parts: just before the Apocalypse, the beginning of it, during it, surviving after it, and three stories which describe the whole thing.

Waiting for Apocalypse:
“String of Pearls” by Eric Kent Edstrom: The world has just heard that comets will strike the Earth and end human life. Lucas Piper and his girlfriend Vicki are among them. Lucas regrets not doing anything meaningful with his life. When they go to get more beer from the local small shop, they find out that the elderly shopkeeper has been murdered. Lucas decides to do something.

“The Shoes I Wore This Morning” by J. Daniel Sawyer: Lord Phineas Roxton Summerlee has just returned from an expedition where he and his small party were looking for a city of gold from the Amazons. The locals warned him away from it, but he didn’t listen.

The Beginning of the End
“The Dust Devil, the Riffraff, and the Big Orange Sunset” by Valerie Brook: Charlene Lynn Weaver is a patient on a psych ward. She and all the others have been locked up and nobody has come in the morning to care for them. Dust storms rage outside and the fine dust has filtrated inside so it’s not possible to leave the building. Charlene is one of the few people who know what’s really going on.

“Goin’ to the Chapel” by Rebecca M. Senese: In just three days, Marlee is going to get the perfect wedding she’s dreamed about since she was a little girl. Unfortunately, that’s the day when aliens invade Earth.

“With Wings the End” by Rob Vagle: The world is dying because people’s hearts are turning into blackbirds and flying away. The birds have mirrored bellies and fly in tight formation. Jeffrey wants to stay in his house, away from danger but his wife Laura wants to meet her friend whose heart is changing soon. On the way to the hospital, Laura also contracts the disease (or whatever it is) and Jeffrey brings her home to die.

Amidst the Apocalypse
“Cogs in the Machine” by Paul Eckheart: The Tickers have wiped out much of humanity but the survivors defend the remaining settlements. Tania wants to be part of Major Townsend’s village but she has a secret which might destroy her or save humanity.

“The Faerie Invasion” by Anthea Sharp: Ric Garcia is trying to protect his little sister from murderous fey folk who have invaded all of USA. But Angelina is sick and Ric doesn’t know what to do. Then the Wild Hunt come to their hiding place.

“Demon-touched” by Travis Heermann: Something infests or possesses humans. When they’re “ridden” (as it’s called) they do terrible things but don’t remember any of it afterwards. The narrator is a neuroscientist and one of the few who is still looking for a cause and a cure. But this time he awakes from “being ridden” in a cage with a shotgun in front of his face.

Survivors: Apocalypse came years ago but some survived it and have to continue living in a drastically changed world. This is perhaps my favorite setting for an Apocalypse story.
“Same Time Next Year” by M. E. Owen: 15 years ago something changed many people into Beasts. Still, Arlene’s family has a tradition to gather and celebrate their continued existence. But now they’re late and Arlene is worried for them.

“The Story That Has to Be Written” by Louisa Swann: A giant solar flare has wiped out a lot of humanity and made the whole planet much drier. The narrator, who is seven years old, her little brother, and father are still struggling to survive in a world where food is hard to come by because most of plant life can’t grow and most of the animals are gone.

“Tyrph Rights” by David Stier: USA is a wasteland thanks to genetic engineering gone wrong. Today, Devin and his new partner Rahel are going to try to get inside the Loop – the dangerous remains of the Sears Tower.

From start to finish:
“Paradox. Lost.” by Stefon Mears: The narrator has invented a time machine and it turns out to be a big mistake. Time travel doesn’t work like any of the theories.

“The Night of Brahma” by Leigh Saunders: Reina Varela Harrak can see the future but it hasn’t brought her happiness because only rarely have people believed what she has told them. Including her own family. Partly because they’re struggling to survive in the horrors of the Endless War.

“Three Degrees Above Zero” by Doug Dandridge: Scott Stafford was an astronomy teacher in Florida. Now, he might be the last man left alive on Earth because of a neutron star. The most science oriented story in this selection.

Reprints some of the funniest stories from Fiction River.

Publication year: 2016
Format: ebook, epub
Page count: 146
Publisher: WMG publishing

“Generations” by Steve Perry: from “Fantasy Adrift”: Ziggy and his brothers live in a frontier planet where police aren’t around. When their enemy has a new toy, Ziggy has to get creative.

“Case Cracked” by Joe Cron: from “Fantastic Detectives”: Frank Dumpty is a hard-boiled detective in Magic City Police Department. A troll has been killed and Frank has a strong hunch who is behind it. But getting justice in a corrupt city isn’t a laughing matter.

“Role Model” by Kevin J. Anderson: another funny story from “Fantastic Detectives”: Dan Shamble is a zombie P.I. While working in a Cosplay Convention, he gets a sidekick: someone cosplaying him.

“Finally Family” by Ray Vukcevich: from “Unnatural Worlds”: Bugboy is an alien but he can’t tell people that. He lives in Japan but doesn’t even know the language. Then he meets Kimiko who teaches English to the Japanese.

“Time, Expressed as an Entrée” by Robert T. Jeschonek: from “Time Streams”: time devouring Rainbow Leviathan eats up everything until just one day is left. Then he encounters an anomaly.

“One-Night Stands for Love and Glory” by David H. Hendrickson: from “Universe Between”: the main character is a stand-up comedian. He used to be great but now unfortunately his Artificial Intelligence, which translates the jokes to the local language and culture, has begun to deteriorate.

“Earth Day” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch: from “How to save the world”: One man thinks that he can save the world. His mother was an ardent environmentalist and so is the son… in his own way.

“Jelly’s Heroes” by Louisa Swann: from “Valor”: Staff Sergeant Jillian K. Wilson was given the task of training a small group of locals at Centauri VI. However, the locals are small and have no arms or legs. But that doesn’t mean they lack the spirit.

“Nice Timestream Youse Got Here” by Lee Allred: another story from “Time Streams”: the narrator and his good-looking but dumb partner Maizie work for the Temporal Protection Agency. This time they’re in New York City in 1940, looking for their next target. But they aren’t in it to protect any timeline.

“In the Play of Frigid Women” by Dean Wesley Smith: from “Fantasy Adrift”: Poker Boy and his love the Front Desk Girl are superheroes. However, this time they’ve decided to relax on a cruise. Everything goes smoothly at first but then a terrible storm hits. This time, Poker Boy and his gang have to really stretch their creativity to save the day.

These are all fun. I especially liked “Jelly’s heroes”, “Generations”, and “One-Night Stands for Love and Glory”. I’ve read previously about half of these stories but enjoyed them again.

Fiction River’s second subscription drive is live at Kickstarter.

Check it out if you like short stories.

A short story collection about women who fight, one way or another. Not all of the stories have fighting in them, though. Also, some of the stories include non-hetero characters.

Publication year: 2016
Format: pdf ebook
Page count: 316
Publisher: Evil Girlfriend Press

The collection has three stories with female smiths, which was great; I think I’ve only read about one or two before. The women in these stories are practical and level-headed. They’re warriors who are used to danger. A couple of stories have retired women which was also delightful; they’re also too rare in fantasy. I enjoyed all of the stories.

All of these worlds have equality between sexes and that makes sense. Women and men fight side by side in these armies and women aren’t challenged because of their gender. That was really refreshing. Two stories even have female gladiators. I know that the Roman arenas had female gladiators but they’re hardly ever mentioned.

The stories vary greatly in mood. A couple of them are funny, a few heart-breaking, most are intense and exciting and explore the main character well. Most of them have magic, in one way or another. The most melancholy story is the first one from Judith Tarr.

Attrition by Judith Tarr: The Queen of the Amazons is dead but some of her warriors are still alive, even though they’re surrounded by men who want to take everything from them.

Armor the color of War by David Szarzynski: An abbot comes to Lady Heathwiln asking for her help. But not in her current occupation as a smith but her previous one, as fabled fighter.

No Better Armor, No Heavier Burden by Wunji Lau: Rose hasn’t seen her sons in a long time. But when one of them comes to her for aid, he brings a lot of trouble with him. This story had excellent and very interesting world building and I’d love to see more stories in this fantasy Wild West setting.

The Blood Axe by Mary Pletsch: After decades of fighting Imperial forces, Agrona returns home to her sister and nephew. She’s wondering if the only legacy she’ll leave behind is dead soldiers. But she has a chance to do different things.

First Command by Chris A. Jackson: Camwynn is Lord Fornish’s second squire. Lord Fornish is seriously wounded in battle and before he dies, he appoints Camwynn as the Commander of his troops. Unfortunately, the first squire doesn’t agree. Even in the middle of a war, he challenges Camwynn’s competence.

The Bound Man by Mary Robinette Kowal: Halldór and his men have retrieved the legendary sword of Li Reiko but they’re attacked by bandits. In desperation, Halldór invokes the legendary warrior. And succeeds but in a way he didn’t expect.

Pride and Joy by Eric Landreneau: For ten years, beautiful Regana has been the best gladiatrix in Baygonne. But now scarred warrior Mad Boar is determined to win the prize for herself. And she has very personal reasons for wanting it.

Voice of the Trees by Gabrielle Harbowy and Ed Greenwood: Acoria is a dryad. When her tree tells her that the water in the forest has become tainted, she has to find the source of the sickness.

The Raven and the Swans by Amy Griswold: Carlin killed the Elf Queen’s brother and now is her prisoner. The Queen intends to ransom Carlin. But Carlin’s biggest worry are her sword-brothers who also prisoners and can expect no mercy.

The Family Business by Kristy Griffin Green: Naomi is a smith and her husband works with computers but they’re also grandparents. When their grandchild comes running to Naomi talking about monsters, she knows just what to do.

Stone Woken by Crystal Lynn Hilbert: Hjalli and Kvern are sister-kings for hardy people who live under the mountain. When the World-Eater awakens, Kvern decides to confront it, even if she has to face a fate worse than death.

Serendipity by Steve Bornstein: Cade is a sword-dancer and a bodyguard. One of the mysterious Kin contacts her and offers her a job: to guard him while he performs a ritual in a dragon’s lair. Cade can’t resist a challenge like that.

Ravenblack by Alex C. Renwick: Ravenblack is the lordess of Hounds’ Keep and she has no patience for formalities. When one of the Queen’s Magickers come calling, she’s forced to feast him even though she would rather be with her beloved gryphounds.

King’s Shield: A tale of the World of Ruin by Erik Scott de Bie: Ovelia is the best friend of Lenalin, who is in a political, and unhappy, marriage to Prince Paeter. Ovelia is also a fighter and the daughter of the King’s Shield. When her father is killed defending Lenalin and her infant son, it’s up to Ovelia to protect either the child or her friend.

The Lioness by Anya Penfold: Leodinae, Linnie, is a veteran of undead war and now a gladiator on the Arena. Unfortunately, her family doesn’t approve so she has to keep it a secret, fighting in a helmet that covers her face and with the name Lioness.

The Hero of Ithar by Sarah Hendrix: Twenty years ago, J’Hell saved her country. Now, she lives in a small village happily with her husband. But every year, the village throws her a huge feast, which she hates. However, this year the feast will be a little different

Golden by Todd McCaffrey: Simon is the human mate of a female dragon. Their child is Golden. Unfortunately, Golden would like to be a human girl. Also, Golden and her mother don’t really get along which means that the family has to move often. After one fight, Golden flies away.

Sharp as Griffin’s Claw by Rhonda Parrish: A bard sings the story of Abira and Teyat. Abira is a half-elf swordsmith who, together with her imp Teyat, forges the most beautiful weapons imaginable.

A Night in New Veroshtin by Cassandra Rose Clarke: Salima is a soldier is a century long war. But now, she’s told to become an assassin. She loathes is but has little choice.

I enjoyed all of these stories. “No Better Armor, No Heavier Burden” was my favorite and I found the setting fascinating. Hopefully, the author will write more. Of course, I enjoyed “Attrition” which is set in Tarr’s Amazon world. “Voice of the Trees” was surprising and different from the others. I also really enjoyed “The Bound Man” and “Family Business”.

Short stories about crimes which were crimes in the past but are no longer. Well, not in USA anway.

Publication year: 2015
Format: ebook
Page count: 251
Publisher: WMG Publishing

Some of these stories are about rights for other humans than heterosexual white males. But they are still quite a varied bunch, even though most of them are set in the USA. Some of them remind us about things that history tends to forget, like that the Jewish people weren’t the only ones killed in Nazi camps.

However, quite a few of these stories are somber and depressing because the world can be a nasty place, especially when the people around you all condemn you for your actions or simply for existing.

The Color of Guilt by Annie Reed: Josef is a Holocaust survivor and is troubled by his past for many reasons.

Hiro’s Welcome by Patrick O’Sullivan: Sergeant Kintoki Hiro is coming home to California after fighting in the Second World War. He wants to marry his sweetheart. But there’s just one problem: she’s white.

The American Flag of Sergeant Hale Schofield by Kelly Washington: Willa’s father came home from the Vietnam war when she was very young. He has nightmares which won’t stop and he visits the Arlington National Cemetery every year for a fellow soldier’s grave and takes the US flag from it. Then he burns the flag. Willa finally understands why.

Combat Medic by Kris Nelscott: June Eagleton was a medic for five years in the Vietnam war. Now, she lives in Berkeley and is horrified to wake up at the sound of combat helicopters. It’s May 1969 near People’s Park.

Night of the Healer by Tonya D. Price: Pierre-Joseph Wawanolewat is heading to Boston to cure a sick woman. But the journey is filled with danger for the simple reason that he’s a Native American and during this time there weren’t any laws which protected him. And the police officer following him isn’t making things any easier.

The Quality of Mercy by Michele Lang: Mrs. Abigail Abbott’s late husband was a lawyer and he taught Abigail, too. However, in the 1800s women can’t practice law so she has to use more roundabout means to help people.

Daughter of Joy by Cindie Geddes: Ah Toy is a young Chinese wife on her way to America. Her abusive childhood has taught her that gold is the only thing that can give her freedom. So, she will use her only asset.

Democracy by Mario Milosevic: The small town of Glory has a dilemma: the vote for the next sheriff is a tie. Robin is woman masquerading as a man and so she has voted, illegally. Her vote will have more power than anyone in the town would have believed.

Sisters in Suffrage by Debbie Mumford: Emily Tuttle joins the Silent Sentinels who are picketing President Wilson’s office. Little does she know what is to follow.

Knocked Up by Elliotte Rusty Harold: When a high school girl gets pregnant in a small town in Kentucky, her choices are pretty limited.

O Best Beloved by Angela Penrose: Marceau’s wife is giving birth and he’s afraid that his sins will become manifest in the child.

Sunshine by Michael Kowal: The narrator is a gumshoe in 1930s and he’s helping an actress, Little Jackie Sunshine, who has a terrible family.

The Harper’s Escape by Anthea Sharp: Bronagh O’Riada is harper and a bard but after Oliver Cromwell invaded Ireland she became a fugitive unable to practice her craft.

As the Berimbau Begins to Play by Paul Eckheart: In Rio de Janeiro, the narrator is introduced to a game which was then technically illegal which was and is very popular.

Death of the Turban by Bill Beatty: Veli Yaziz is a detective in post-Atatürk Turkey where some traditions are illegal and some are merely frowned upon. His assistant works for the secret police and is spying on him while he investigates the murder of a hodja (a holy man) who is now an outlaw.

On the Edge of the Nations by Dan C. Duval: Cellie and her Mama were house slaves but now they’re on the run, trying to keep out of sight from the slave hunters.

Window Frame, Handprint, Bloodstain by M. Elizabeth Castle: A story in a haiku form, set in April 4, 1968.

The White Game by Ron Collins: In 1963 in Alabama, even playing in a baseball game can be a crime with disproportional punishment if your skin has a different color. An old journalist reminiscent what happened and what he thinks happened in May that year.

I liked all of these stories, but my favorites were “The Harper’s Escape”, “Combat Medic”, “The Night of the Healer”, “Quality of Mercy”, and “Death of the Turban”. “Democracy” is deliciously ironic. “Daughter of Joy” and “Sisters in Suffrage” are just chilling but for different reasons.

This is a collection of seven retold fairy tales in steampunk settings. I wasn’t familiar with any of the authors before.

Publication year: 2016
Format: ebook
Page count: around 100

The Clockwork People by Angela Castillo: Mr. Streusel builds toys whom all the children love. He lovingly crafts a clockwork boy and calls it Pieter. Then Pieter starts to move in his own.

Perfection by Chris Champe: Mary used to be a wonderful pianist but she had an accident which left her weak and unable to play. Her husband builds automatons which move like humans but much of his time goes to support Mary. One day, Mary realizes that her piano has been taken away and she searches the labyrinthine house for it.

The Mech Oni and the Three-Inch Tinkerer by Leslie and David T. Allen: Issun Boshi was born to an elderly couple. He was wanted but he was also tiny, only three inches tall. When he’s sixteen, he leaves his parents to become a samurai.

The Copper Eyes by Allison Latzko: Oliver is the youngest son of his inventor mother. Unfortunately, his mother has lost her mind: she has built Oliver’s brothers into her inventions. Oliver has no choice but to run away.

Strawberry Sins by Heather White: Dr. Samuel Wolfe and Dr. Fermin have been working together to make a formula which will change a man to something else and back again. Unfortunately, the formula which is supposed to turn Wolfe back to a man didn’t work and he despairs. He feels his mind is starting to deteriorate. But then Fermin’s daughter appears and starts to help him.

The Yellow Butterfly by Ashley Capes: Takashi works in a factory for a cruel and demanding boss, Mr. Nishimura. But when Nishimura closes the factory, the former workers have to move or starve. Nishimura’s daughter tries to help the men but she might make things worse.

Aubrey in the World Above by Daniel Lind: Aubrey lives in a world where thieves are sent to the World Above and forced to serve the people there. Her mother has just been condemned and her cruel father forces her to witness how the giant beanstalk springs up and spirits her mother away.

I didn’t recognize all of these stories as familiar fairy tales but I did enjoy them even though none of them were exceptional. The most recognizable ones have interesting steampunk twists. Two of them are based on Japanese fairy tales which I’m not familiar with. Interestingly enough, I thought that Strawberry Sins was based on quite another story until I got the end of the book where each writer reveals the fairy tale his or her story is based on. The book has excerpts from some of the writers’ other books.

Most of these stories are pretty dark, but I guess that’s appropriate for stories with “punk” in them. A couple of them have actually a gothic horror feeling. They have cruel family members and mad scientists. Yet, they all have hope in them, too. “The Clockwork People” and “The Mech Oni and the Three-Inch Tinkerer” are the least grim and “The Copper Eyes” even has an amusing twist on the damsel in distress trope.

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