short story


A collection of SF short stories, novellettes, and two novellas. The second book in an SF anthology series.

58231577

Format: ebook

Publisher: WMG Publishing

Pagecount from GoodReads: 590

Publishing year: 2021

The theme of the collection is aliens and in almost every story there are, indeed, aliens. But they’re not always in the center of the story. In fact, many of these stories feature aliens in an unconventional way. I was a bit disappointed that none of Rusch’s creepy and wonderful aliens from her Retrieval Artist series made it. But I ended up enjoying the stories. There were just different than what I expected.

Dean Wesley Smith

My Socks Rolled Down (2011): The main character has just one pair of Magic Socks. He has had them almost since he was born. Now, he’s watching the lottery on TV and his Magic Socks are going wild.

The Great Alien Vibration (2015): Jimmy has finally asked out his work colleague, Stephanie. They’re going to a mystery movie where Jimmy is the only man in the audience but that’s fine by him.

Sighed the Snake [Poker Boy • 7] (2010): Aliens last visited Earth in the late 1950s. Now they’re back and Poker Boy and his trusty sidekick and girlfriend Front Desk Girl must deal with them. The aliens love to gamble, that’s why they’ve returned to Las Vegas. It’s Poker Boy versus a sneaky alien at the poker table.

A Deal at the End of Time [The Seeders Universe] (2017) : When the Event killed off most of the people on Earth, Parker had been happily married and teaching law. Now, he lives alone and runs the End of Time Bar, Saloon, and Eatery. He’s mostly accepted the new normal. But then a beautiful woman appears right in his kitchen.

Me and Beans and Great Big Melons (2008): Innis is just looking for a hamburger and beer to watch a game. He never expected to run into an alien in the local supermarket.


Who’s Holding Donna Now? (2014): When three aliens start to gamble at Sandy’s bar, the owner gets really bad feeling about it.

Love with the Proper Napkin (1994): Two people write things on napkins in a bar. A hilarious story.


Dried Up [Poker Boy • 15] (2011): Poker Boy and his girlfriend Front Desk Girl wake up to electric static in their bed. Two gray-skinned beings with huge eyes stand next to them. The Silicon Suckers look like the Grays but they’ve lived on Earth longer than humans. They’re also quite powerful so Poker Boy is worried at first. But it turns out that they need his help.


The Last Man [Buckey the Space Pirate] (2017): Buckey goes into a simple costume pasty, expecting it to be boring. After all, it’s not an SF convention. Instead, he comes face to face with Maiden Molly, the Sex Queen of the planet Frost. She’s looking for the last man on Earth. Buckey jumps right to the chance.


Dinner on a Flying Saucer (2008) (a variant of Dinner on a Flyin’ Saucer): The nameless main character stumbles back home at 3 am, smelling of whisky and little red marks on his shirt collar. When he explains to his wife that little grey men had abducted him and served him dinner on their flying saucer, she doesn’t believe him.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch


Skin Deep (1988): Cullaene lives among the human colonists but hides his true self. When a group of people comes to question him about a body they found, Cullaene realizes he needs to leave, once again. But his human friend’s daughter is showing symptoms and without treatment, she will be disfigured or maybe she’ll even die. Cullaene could help her, but it could cost him his life.


Alien Influences [Alien Influences] (1992) / novelette: A continuation of the novellette Dancers Like Children in the first volume. John grew up in the colony Bountiful and the alien Dancers influenced him so much that he, and the other children, did crimes without realizing it. Now, John is an adult and a bounty hunter. A very rich client wants to hire him to find a stolen art object. The money is too good to pass up. But in order to solve the theft, John must face his past.

Glass Walls (1994): Beth is another one of the children of Bountiful, influenced by the alien Dancers. Now, she works at an interstellar hotel, sometimes with aliens. She and the staff makes sure that the guests get everything they want, including sex. She makes herself live in the now, like a Dancer, so the aliens wouldn’t influence her. But then a baby Minaran is brought to the hotel. Minaras are endangered, protected spiecies, so the Minaran shouldn’t be there, must less in full view of everyone.


The Injustice Collector (2005) / novelette: Humans have landed on an alien planet. The local people aren’t curious about them but indulge in the humans’ strange customs. However, something goes seriously wrong, children die, and the locals send for a Justice/Injustice hearing. The hearing is quite different from what humans are expecting. The story is the Injustice Collector’s record of the proceedings to a review board.


Broken Windchimes (2009) / novella: The main character is a human singer who lives among the alien Pané. The Pané have very sensitive hearing. They find human male sopranos very pleasant, but they demand perfection. The main character is a star: he has been singing for them for 22 years, ever since he was a small child. Now, his voice breaks.

Bonding (1999) / novelette: Marisa is an undercover agent and enjoys her life without any close ties. She’s one of the best, choosing her assignments. This time she’s after people who illegally capture and sell alien animals, the Ce’nark. The animals thrive in cold. The job goes sour when a young Ce’nark accidentally bonds with Marisa. It will die if the bondmate leaves it alone. Now, she must care for a vulnerable young animal. Luckily, it’s possible that the Ce’nark’s tribe could be nearby and they could accept the youngster back. If Marisa can find them on a frozen planet.


What Fluffy Knew (1998): A fun story told from the POV of a cat. Fluffy is a princess, a big white cat. Everything is right in her world: she has food, people to pet her, and comfortable places to sleep in. Then they came and everything changed.

Blind (1999) / novella: When Scott was ten years old, he and his older brother Richard snuck into the woods. In a fairy circle, they thought they saw a face in a fog, and Scott took pictures of it. Supernatural aficionados around the world took an interest and Richard was happy to be interviewed, but Scott wasn’t. Richard was convinced that a UFO was in the woods but Scott didn’t believe that. Later, Scott went to MIT and got so rich he could retire while Richard stayed in their home village and raised a family. Now, Richard is dead of exposure in the woods. Everyone believes he was cheating on his wife but Scott is convinced that something else happened. He investigates.


Fit to Print (1997) / novelette: Frank Butler is a veteran New York Times journalist. His grandmother came from a secluded little town of Bonner Bay. Frank loves it and still goes there every summer during his vacation. But this time something has changed. Small, strange pictures have been taped to many windows: a tiny person in a circle floating on the crest of a wave. Frank asks the mayor what is going on. She’s reluctant to tell him because he’s a reporter. But finally, she admits: aliens have arrived to Bonner Bay.


The End of the World (2007) / novella: A little girl is separated from her Momma in a frightened crowd. The girl is terrified but tries to do as she has been instructed: to change herself to resemble the sidewalk where she’s laying. But she’s so scared she’s not sure if it will work.

A hundred years later, a small-town detective Becca Keller gets a strange call from her ex and goes to meet him. His company is renovating an old building. And they’ve found a mass grave. It must be a hundred years old but a smell still lingers.

The two plotlines seem separate at first, but pretty soon I guessed how they would connect. Hope is a town with a proud history of accepting the black and the Chinese at a time when most of the US wouldn’t accept them. So, when a mass grave is found, that threatens to shake the whole town. Becca’s ex has also invested a lot of money in the renovation site and could go bankrupt.

Meanwhile, a hundred years ago, the little girl’s family is very different from the local people and they must always be alert for trouble. But at the beginning of the story, the girl is separated from them in a crowd that has grown violent.

At least in these stories, the writers have quite different styles. Rusch writes longer stories and they’re often more somber, melancholy, even pessimistic in tone. Since the stories are longer, she also focuses more on worldbuilding. Smith writes shorter and in a more humorous way. Some of them are quite whimsical and have less conventional aliens. I enjoyed both styles.

A collection of fantasy and SF short stories. Originally published as a hardcover, this is the third softcover.

21531493

Format: print

Publisher: TOR

Page count: 370

Publishing year: 2014

Bombshells by Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files): Harry Dresden’s apprentice Molly has had a hard time after Harry died. She’s trying to take over for Harry as a wizard but thinks that she’s not good enough. Then one of her friends asks for help searching for a missing boyfriend, who is a vampire.

I enjoyed this story, although the three dangerous women used their looks and breasts a bit too much to be taken seriously.


City Lazarus by Diana Rowland: Danny is a corrupt cop in New Orleans. Ever since the river left, the city has become a cesspool for criminals, the desperate, and a few very rich men. Danny works for one of the rich men. But then he meets a woman, a stripper, and starts to have feelings for her.

This one didn’t really have a dangerous woman, except as a manipulator.


Hell Hath No Fury by Sherrilyn Kenyon: Four friends are looking for ghosts, real ones. They arrive at an abandoned town with their equipment. However, one of the four has actual psychic powers and makes contact with the ghost who is very angry.

This has a very familiar storyline, but I enjoyed the ghost and her story.


Some Desperado by Joe Abercrombie (Red Country): Shy’s have a really bad day. Her horse just fell and died. Her band of desperados has turned on her and is hunting her. She runs to a town, hoping to get help, but it’s abandoned. She has only a knife and her wits to defend herself.

The most action-packed story in the collection with a great Western setting.

The Hands That Are Not There by Melinda Snodgrass (Imperials): The only SF story in the collection. The main character is depressed about his chances of getting a promotion because of his low birth. But an older man in the bar tells his story of how things could be much worse.

Another one where the woman is a manipulator, using her looks and sex. The SF setting seems rather dated with women as stay-at-home moms or whores and advancement at least in the military is based on family connections.

Caretakers by Pat Cadigan: Val is in her mid-fifties and lives with her sister Gloria who is 15 years younger. Their mother has dementia and lives in an assisted living home. Gloria has always been pretty aimless. Val is relieved with Gloria starts to volunteer at their mom’s home. But then Gloria becomes convinced that something strange is going on at the home and Val doesn’t believe her.

This was strange. Once again, the dangerous woman was a minor secondary character. The main tension was between Val and her sister.


Novella: Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson (The Cosmere): Silence runs a waystop in the Forests of Hell where the shades of dead people hunt the living. Secretly, she’s also a bounty hunter. When a ruthless criminal with a huge bounty on his head steps into her station, Silence is determined to get him. She also has a far more personal reason to take him down. It’s going to be a hard battle.

This was the best story in the collection. The setting is great. The Forests have shades who can kill and maim if you don’t obey the three rules: don’t kindle flame, don’t shed the blood of another, and don’t run at night. Silence is also a great character.

The stories were different than what I was expecting. I guess after watching Xena and Buffy I’m just not that interested in female characters whose only option is to use their looks and sex to get what they want. Still, it has a couple of good stories, too.

Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch have another interesting Kickstarter project: Make 100 Fantasy Stories: Fantasies Collide.

For over four decades, New York Times and USA Today bestselling writers Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith have been writing professional fantasy novels and short stories that have won awards and sold millions of copies, plus the books and stories have been acclaimed and enjoyed by fans over the entire world.

Now, for the first time, Kris and Dean are collecting 100 of their fantasy short stories together into a five-volume set called FANTASIES COLLIDE. Fifty stories from each author, ten stories per volume per author.

It has already reached the third stretch goal which means more books for readers and writing classes for writers! Among the pledges are two unique writing workshops: Found Fantasy and How to create fantasy from your life. 10 days to go.

A collection of Star Trek short stories written by Star Trek fans.

854536

Publishing year: 1998

Format: Print

Publisher: Pocket Books

Page count: 457

This is the first fan fiction collection that Pocket Books published. It spans four Trek series: Original, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. The stories are written for people who know and love Trek. The writers also clearly love the shows.

Original Star Trek

Landon Cary Dalton: A Private Anecdote: Christopher Pike is in a wheelchair, unable to say anything else than yes or no. He thinks about his past and if any of this is real.

Keith L. Davis: The Last Tribble: Cyrano Jones was caught smuggling tribbles. He’s been working for twenty years cleaning the station of them. Now, the last tribble is almost in his hands.

Phaedra M. Weldon: Lights in the Sky: Years ago, Shahna was a drill thrall on the planet Triskelion.

Now, she’s the ambassador from her planet. She’s come to the Federation to negotiate aid after a Romulan attack on her planet. She also wants to meet Kirk again.

Dayton Ward: Reflections: Kirk is dying on Veridian III. Two figures manifest in his mind. They show him how things could have gone differently if Kirk had made a different choice.

The Next Generation

Dylan Otto Krider: What Went Through Data’s Mind 0.68 Seconds Before the Satellite Hit: Data’s first-person report to Starfleet.

Jerry M. Wolfe: The Naked Truth: Reg Barcley is leading an away team for the first time and he’s nervous, not surprisingly. Worse, the Enterprise must leave and the small team is on its own.

Peg Robinson: The First: Picard encounters a woman who is the first one on her planet to build and fly a spacecraft. She’s even built an engine that leaves Geordi scratching his head. Unfortunately, the Federation is at war with the Dominion, so the woman and her people must stay on their planet, for their own good. Picard wrestles with his conscience and the Prime Directive.

Kathy Oltion: See Spot Run: The Enterprise is due for an inspection in just a couple of days. Normally, that’s not a problem but lately strange malfunctions have appeared all over the ship. Right now they’re minor but could escalate. Also, Data’s cat Spot manages to slip out of his quarters and cause havoc.

Bobbie Benton Hull: Together again, for the first time: The relationship between Captain Picard and Guinan stretches through centuries. Now, they meet for the first time, kind of.

Alara Rogers: Civil Disobedience: The Borg have destroyed the Earth. Q isn’t happy about that, but the Continuum has ordered him not to interfere.

Franklin Thatcher: Of Cabbages and Kings: All of a sudden, the Enterprise finds itself without its crew. It must try to find out what happened and also survive when mechanized ships attack.

Deep Space Nine

Christina F. York: Life’s Lessons: Cadet Nog had come to visit from Starfleet Academy and he notices that Mrs. O’Brien, his former and most beautiful teacher, is sad. His Ferengi instincts take over and he plans how to take advantage of the situation. Keiko O’Brien thinks that her husband Miles might be falling for Major Kira Nerys. Kira is pregnant with the O’Briens’ son and Keiko starts to think Kira will take her place in the family. Keiko is heading down to Bajor for a conference but misses her flight. Nog manages to borrow a runabout and takes Keiko down. He plans to take make his move on her on the planet.

Vince Bonasso: Where I Fell Before My Enemy: U.S.S. Defiant is on a navigation test run when it encounters another Federation ship in distress. Moments later, the other vessel explodes with everyone inside. Captain Sisko pursues the small ship that is responsible but all is not as it seems.

Voyager

Patrick Cumby: Good Night, Voyager: Suddenly the main power of U.S.S. Voyager goes out, leaving the crew in darkness and without gravity. The crew, of course, starts to repair and investigate what happened.

J.A. Rosales: Ambassador at Large: Three Mondasian ships are pursuing a small vessel. Voyager interferes and beams the only life form aboard. To everyone’s surprise, the pilot turns out to be a human and over a hundred years old. He’s friendly but evades most questions about how he’s in the Delta quadrant.

jaQ Andrews: Fiction: Voyager crash-landed on a planet four years ago. Chakotay has made a new life for himself there, but Janeway won’t give up. She feels that something isn’t right.

Jackee C.: I, Voyager: A sentient life form is fascinated by Janeway and her crew. It studies them.

Craig D.B. Patton: Monthuglu: Voyager enters into a strange new nebula to cut a little time off their journey. However, as soon as Voyager enters the nebula, the main power goes offline. Soon, the crew experiences strange things and small things start to go wrong. The story is told through logs.

Because We Can

Two more short stories from two of the editors. They don’t conform to the competition guidelines.

John J. Ordover: The Man Who Sold the Sky: A man is on his deathbed when six familiar people appear around him.

Paula M. Block: The Girl Who Controlled Gene Kelly’s Feet: Enterprise’s psychologist interviews yeoman Minnie Moskowitz who is bored with her job. The ship will soon land on the amusement park plant, so the psychologist suggests that Minnie take a holiday.

This was an entertaining collection. Some of the stories aren’t as polished as from professional writers but the appreciation of the characters, the setting, and the heart of the show comes clear.

A collection of SF short stories, novellettes, and one novella. The first in an SF anthology series.

58231576

Format: ebook

Publisher: WMG Publishing

Page count from GoodReads: 506

Publishing year: 2021

The theme of the collection is cities. The stories are quite varied, including a terrorist’s manifesto, a detective story, and romances. Three are set in the Seeders universe from Smith which deals with survivors living after most of humanity has died. Rusch has also one survivor story. Most are set on Earth but a couple are set in alien worlds and one is on a space station.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

The City’s Edge (2016), a novelette: Petras’ wife is dead. To cope with her death and to continue to be a father to their two children, Petras needs to see her body and see where she died. He also tries to understand why she died.


Dunyon (2011): The story is set in a remote outpost that is a resort for the very rich. But now it’s also the last stop for desperate refugees. The main character runs a bar and hears all sorts of things. Then one customer claims that the MC knows how to get to Dunyon, a safe haven. But the MC has never even heard about it. When more people demand to be taken to Dunyon, she investigates before things get out of control.

One Small Step (2008): Nyalou is the newest member of the Tranquility Base’s Council on the Moon. The others intimidate her. But when the richest member starts to say that the Arrival Monument and the footprint must go so that the land can be sold for huge profit, Nyalou disagrees, to her own surprise. She hasn’t gone to the Monument since she was a kid. But she agrees to find out if people still go to see Armstrong’s footprint.


Earth Day (2013): The main character’s mother was obsessed with Earth Day and saving the planet. The MC is obsessed with his mom and in her memory, he will save the planet.

Snapshots (2014): When Cleavon was ten years old in 1955 Chicago, he saw for the first time a murder victim, a black boy just like himself. Years later, he fled the city to raise his family in peace. But to his horror, his daughter gets a scholarship and is returning to Chicago despite his objections.

Voyeuristic Tendencies (2014), a novelette. Maggie keeps herself invisible because of her talent and because of the money she makes using her talent. She’s a telepath who can only read minds, not influence them in any way. She uses the information she gets, usually about cheating spouses, and makes good money. But when an old man approaches her claiming he had the same talent, he says that she will go insane when she’s forty.


Coolhunting (1998), a novella: Steffie Storm-Warning is a coolhunter, searching for the next trend. It’s lonely work but she loves her independence and anonymity. The trend is a human doing something cool or wearing something cool. The trend can last a couple of days to a few weeks. Steffie has a honed sense of what would be cool. She records the subject and sends the recording to companies that can use them. She had a strange and difficult childhood which is the reason why she prefers to be anonymious but now her family needs her.

Story Child (1990): Michael was left behind in the Abandonment. Every child and many adults just disappeared overnight, including his wife and child. The people left behind are plagued by unknown illnesses. For two years Michael has been the only doctor in town, fighting to keep people alive and fighting against his exhaustion and helplessness. Then, the story child appears hovering in a skimmer.


Sing (1987): The nameless main character of the story is a native of her planet. One day a human tells her that he wants to record her singing. But she doesn’t know what that means. Her culture has no words for music or anything related to music. She’s suspicious.


Dancers Like Children [Alien Influences] (1991) a novelette: Dr. Justin Schafer specializes in both alien and human psychology. However, ten years ago he made a horrible mistake and hasn’t been practicing since. He’s been called to the Bountiful colony on an alien planet because someone is brutally killing children inside the colony dome. The locals are convinced that the killers are the local aliens called Dancers because the kids had been murdered in a way that mimics a Dancer ritual. Justin takes the job reluctantly, hoping he won’t make mistakes this time.

Dean Wesley Smith

Playing in the Street (1995) a novelette: In 2030, Moscow, Idaho is a dead town. People died instantly. The main character returns there in protective gear to look at his dead parents. He knows what happened to the town and it all started back in 1913.

Keep Hoping for a New Tomorrow (2017): Martin Knight runs a popular talk show Here and Now where he interviews people stuck in time. And there are a lot of people to interview: everyone on Earth. For 7,987 times everyone on the planet has been experiencing the same 66 minutes over and over again. However, their minds have not been affected. They know it’s happening so they can change what they do after the time loop starts repeating again.


A Bad Patch of Humanity [The Seeders Universe] (2015): Four years ago, an electromagnetic pulse killed off every human who wasn’t underground. The survivors have rebuilt a few cities. Angie Park is looking for survivors and telling them that other humans still live. Most people she meets are first afraid but then relieved. But the small group she meets this time is quite different.


Nostalgia 101 (2006): A thousand years ago, humanity used nanites to prolong their own lives. When the sun started to cool, humans built domes. Now, a group of relatively young humans is looking to pass Nostalgia 101 class. Because boredom isn’t the threat. Nostalgia is.


Out of Coffee Experience (2013): Arrington is a time-artist: he goes back in time and captures a split second of a split second so that people from his time can come and view the moment as art. He also hates coffee so he decided to make his newest, and no doubt most popular, piece of art in a coffee shop in 2004.


Remember Me to Your Children (2014): Part of the Seeders universe, this is also a story about people who survived the Event. Tammy and Hal are part of Respect project, looking into homes so that they can record the names and lives of people who lived there and lay the bodies to rest in a new cemetery. This time Tammy and Hal find something unexpected.


Neighborhoods (2013): Big Ed is a self-made millionaire who is used to solving problems nobody else can. But living in Chicago he can’t help but hear all the time about gun violence and children dying. Nobody seems to be able to do anything about it. But Big Ed comes up with a crazy plan.


To Remember a Single Minute (2015): Mike Hanley has lived a full life but now he’s facing a disease that will take his memories from him. However, Remember Incorporated will guarantee that he will always remember one minute of his life.


He Meant No Harm [Bryant Street] (2016): Dennis Phipps’s grandmother has passed away and he returns to the old family house on Bryant Street, to clean it up. The other houses seem to be abandoned, too. He finds something that reminds him of his childhood and wants to try it out again.

Shadow in the City [The Seeders Universe] (2003): Carey has been living alone since the Event happened four years ago. She hiked from dead Portland, Oregon to the coast. Now, she’s returning to Portland with the faint hope that someone else might have survived, too. Hopefully someone still sane.

I’ve read two of Rusch’s stories before, Coolhunting and Dancers like Children. I enjoyed them again and I enjoyed all the stories.

2022 Holiday Spectacular is live on Kickstarter!

Basically, it’s an expanded fiction Advent Calendar. Every day from American Thanksgiving (November 24th) through January 1st, 2023, all supporters of this campaign will get an original holiday story delivered to them every day to read on any device.

The stories are all original and written by over thirty different professional writers and edited by Hugo Award winning editor Kristine Kathryn Rusch. And no one but Kris and a couple people at WMG Publishing know which story you will get each day. That’s part of the fun.

This year, the three themes are “Candy Cane Kisses”, “Crooked Little Christmas”, and “Time Travel Holidays.” I’m particularly looking forward to those time travel stories.

10 days to go. It’s already funded and passed three stretch goals so every pledger will get three extra stories. The project has two very interesting workshops for writers: How to Write a Hardboiled Holiday Story and How to Write a Secrets Holiday Story.

As I understand it, the original hardcover edition was split into three paperbacks.

21531492

Publishing year: 2014

Format: Print

Publisher: Tor

Page count: 403

About half of the stories are set in the writer’s larger universe and one is a shared world. I had no trouble understanding the stories but unfortunately, I didn’t feel that they were very compelling, either. Most of the women are politically or socially dangerous.

Lev Grossman: The Girl in the Mirror: set in his Magicians world, the story follows Plum. She’s the leader of a secret society of students, the League, in a magical university. One student has stepped over the line and the League must discipline him with an elaborate prank.

Sharon Kay Penman: A Queen in Exile: 1189 Germany. Constance de Hauteville hears that her nephew has died. That means that Constance will be Queen of Sicily and her cold and ruthless husband the Holy Roman Emperor will also be King of Sicily. But a bitter battle for the crown must be won first.

S. M. Sterling: Pronouncing Doom: Machines don’t work anymore and society has fragmented. In this town, Wiccans rule. It’s the heavy duty of Juniper Mackenzie to sentence an evildoer.

Caroline Spector: Lies My Mother Told Me: Set in the Wild Cards universe, the main character Michelle Pond is a major superhero called Bubbles. She and her adoptive daughter Adesina are in a Mardi Gras parade when zombies attack. Michelle knows that her friend Joey, the Hoodoo Mama, is the one who controls zombies but why would Joey attack the parade and her? Turns out someone stole Joey’s power. And that’s just the beginning.

Sam Sykes: Name the Beast: Kalindris’ people are silent, watchful. They hear the Howling. But her daughter is nothing like that. Kalindris has grown to resent the man who sired the child and she also resents her daughter. When it’s time for the child to kill a beast and blood her hands, Kalindris goes with her because she’s sure that the child isn’t up to the task. The other POV is Senny. Senny’s Mother and Father are arguing. A beast killed Senny’s older sibling and the family is on the run.

Nancy Kress: Second Arabesque, Very Slowly: In a world, where a virus made 99% of women infertile, civilization has fallen. In Northern USA, people are either hunter-gatherer packs or farmer communities. The first-person POV main character Nurse is in a hunter-gatherer pack. She’s already past 60 and knows that when she can’t keep up anymore, she will be shot. But for now, she does her best to nurse the women and men of the pack. The women are valued for their fertility or if they have special skills.

Diana Gabaldon: Virgins: A novella set in her Oulander setting but before the books. Jamie Fraiser has just fled Scotland and joins a mercenary group where his best friend Ian is a member. Because Jamie and Ian understand Hebrew, they are entrusted with a mission to bring a Jewish girl, her maid, and a priceless dowry to Paris for her wedding. Of course, things go wrong.

This is one of the Wyrd & Wonder prompts.

Time to celebrate shorter reads – what are your favorite fantasy zines, anthologies, individual short stories, novelettes, or novellas?

I like short stories and novellas. It was difficult to choose just five but here goes.

1, Lois McMaster Bujold: Penric’s Demon

The first story in the Penric & Desdemona fantasy series. Penric is the younger son of a minor lord. He wants to study but the family can’t afford it. He’s studious, curious, generous, and kind. When the family finds him a marriage match with the daughter of a cheese merchant, he agrees to it and while he doesn’t love his bride, he can easily imagine that he will in time. However, on the way to the betrothal party, he meets a group of people: a couple of servants and an old woman clearly in distress. He offers to help the woman and receives more than he ever imagines: a demon.

In this world, demons are intelligent creatures but they don’t have bodies. Instead, they have to take over another body, animal or human. They’re also not evil but have, of course, very different experiences from any human which means that humans don’t necessarily understand them or their reactions. Also, if the host has a weak will, the demon can take over completely. Penric has no knowledge of demons or how to control them, so he has to learn it all from scratch. But he’s curious and willing to learn. This particular demon is about 200 years old but her most recent hosts have been Temple sorceresses, so she knows not to try to wrestle for control.

Penric and his demon are a delightful pair. I’ve enjoyed the series a lot.

2, Kristine Kathryn Rusch: The Scottish Play

Porchia is one of three sisters and three witches. Their family tree of witches can be traced back to several centuries, only their methods have changed. Her job is to get rid of curses and other magic in theaters. Because acting, and writing, can produce magic, they can also produce curses so she and her two sisters are in high demand. However, something goes terribly wrong in the Lancaster theater where their mother is working on a curse and is killed.

3, Phyllis Irene Radford and Laura Anne Gilman, ed: The Shadow Conspiracy

In this short story collection, the short stories affect each other and the setting. In the first story the main character, Mary Shelley, (yes, she who wrote the Frankenstein) finds out about new science that she thinks is abdominal: it can transfer a human soul to another body. We get to see the consequences of this science in the other stories. Another scientific achievement is done by Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace; they create machines in the shapes of men. The metal men become more and more common, and are programmed for more and more varied tasks.

Apparently, it’s now only available as an audiobook.

4, Nancy Jane Moore: A Mere Scutcheon

It’s set in a world similar to the Three Musketeers, except that a woman’s honor is the same as a man’s, and not between her legs. The Queen has her guardswomen and the King his guardsmen, and they are often dueling each other. The Queen gives Anna D’Gart a mission: to get back the Queen’s necklace before the ball where the Queen is expected to wear the necklace. Anna and her loyal friend Asamir set out to retrieve it. Asamir is aiming to become a nun but not before she has lots of intimate meetings with a married count.

5, JY Yang: Bridge of Crows

A hauntingly beautiful tale told in a format of a story inside a story. The unnamed narrator tells the tale of a young woman who is walking through a barren land on a desperate quest. From “The Mythic Dream” short story collection.

A fantasy short story based on the Pied Piper fairy tale.

60810119

Publication year: 2019

Publisher: Fiddlehead Press

Format: ebook

The Strigosa Conservatory is next to the city of Hamlin. The Conservatory is a cold, joyless place. Some night the Pipers play a magical song, the Calling, that draws all sorts of vermin from the city, including rats. But the song also calls for unwanted children. The kids who come to the Conservatory are tested for musical ability. Those who pass are taken in as students. It’s hard work and the Pipers are relentless teachers who never compliment the kids. Some of the kids who don’t have musical ability return to the city as servants. Others are never seen again.

Three years ago, Linnet and her younger sister walked past the gates, drawn to the magical Calling. Linnet was sure that they would both pass the test and be students together. So she worked hard to pass the test. But to her shock, her sister didn’t pass it and was sent away, as a servant.

The students of the Conservatory aren’t allowed to leave the grounds so Linnet hasn’t seen her sister in three years. She worked as hard as she could to learn to play the violin. She’s hoping that when she’s a Piper, she can leave and see her sister. Her Piper teacher finally says that Linnet is ready to start to learn the Calling, the magical song. Linnet is overjoyed but even playing the first sequence of the song physically hurts her.

Linnet is still young and very focused on seeing her sister again. The world is quite dark: the kids in the conservatory are beaten and are given barely enough to eat. There are also hints that some meet a darker fate. And yes, the story does have faeries.

Instead of just one Piper, the conservatory has many of them. They play violins, pipes, drums, and lutes. I loved the magical music theme. There aren’t enough stories with magical music in them.

A collection of 16 SF&F stories centering on derelict ships, either in space or at sea.

58017598._sy475_

Publication year: 2021

Publisher: Zombies Need Brains

Format: ebook

Page count from GoodReads: 312

Most of the stories are SF and many have horror elements. Two stories have AI point-of-view characters. One is historical fantasy and two are set in fantasy worlds.

“Symbiote” by Kristine Smith: Shelly Conn’s luck has been bad for the last few weeks. When she and her crew go onboard an old laboratory spaceship, she’s hoping to get good salvage out of it. She gets far more than she bargained for.


“The Wreck of the Sarah Mohr” by D.B. Jackson: Set in 1767, this is a historical fantasy story. Ethan Kaille is a conjurer; he finds stolen or missing goods through magic. A merchant asks him to dispel the ghosts that are haunting his ship. Ethan finds a grimmer secret in the wreck.


“The Tempest in Space” by Griffin Ayaz Tyree: Faizal has finally found his sister among the stars and he’s trying help her.


“Playing Possum” by Andrija Popovic: Darryll is a salvager. He and his trained, wired possum find a derelict ship. He sends his possum in to see if it has anything good. But it isn’t abandoned.

“Standing Orders” by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller: The war is over and the humans won. However, in order to win, the human High Command had to build artificial intelligences to fight for them. The humans promised that after the war, the AIs would have a place in human society. The humans lied.

“Time, Yet” by Gerald Brandt: Senn Jal is a happy man: his lovely wife is pregnant with their first child. While that means more work for him at the farm, he couldn’t be happier. But then something falls from the sky and his world is shattered.


“Flight Plans Through the Dust of Dreams” by Kit Harding: Twenty years ago Rosie was a terrorist and her airship was shot down. Now, she’s trying to fix her old derelict ship. If only the curious and rebellious teenager doesn’t find out who Rosie really is…


“Saving Sallie Ruth” by Gini Koch writing as Anita Ensal: Sallie Ruth is a ghost spaceship, rumored to destroy all ships that encounter it. Now, Space Police’s prison ship sees the remains of an envoy and behind it the Sallie Ruth. The police have the duty to rescue anyone who might be inside.


“Methuselah” by Jacey Bedford: Renny is the captain of a small spaceship Staten Island. He and his crew need money badly. When they come across a derelict ship, they first think they have a great salvage in their hands.

“Celestial Object 143205” by Mark D. Jacobsen: After decades of serving in the US Space Force, Cooper commands his own ship. However, because of various construction delays, that ship won’t leave Earth’s orbit until after Cooper’s command is over. He’s more than a little resentful. But suddenly he has a chance for a deep-space rescue mission, with a barely-finished ship and just one crew member. Of course, Cooper agrees to it. But is he prepared for the isolation of long-time space travel?


“Mercy for the Lost” by Jana Paniccia: young Monkey is a captive crew member of the pirate ship the Outcast. When they find a derelict mage ship, Monkey almost hopes she will die with it. Instead, she gets a chance.


“When the Star Fell and the Levee Broke” by Alex Bledsoe: A big storm washes away Travis’ levee. A strange metal object is left in the mud. At first, Travis thinks it’s a satellite. But it’s far stranger.


“Derelict of Duty” by Chaz Brenchley: The point-of-view character of this story is an AI who was constructed as a weapon in a war. But they have escaped and are now on the run. When they hear about an old vessel, possibly an alien vessel, they can’t resist but investigate.


“Two Ruins Make a Beginning” by R.Z. Held: Alexandrine is a ghost, bound to a murderous ruin spirit. Alexandrine’s purpose is to prevent the spirit from hurting anyone. When Alexandrine and the spirit go to a beach, they see the wreck of a ship. The ship has also a ruin spirit which is holding four people hostage. Can Alexandrine help them without losing her soothing connection to ”her” spirit?


“Orpheus” by Jack Campbell: The Daedalus is the second crewed mission to Saturn. One of their tasks is to find the three crew members who were left behind during the first mission. The bodies, if there are any, are Saturn’s biggest moon, Titan. However, their lander malfunctions so they must use the previous mission’s lander, the Orpheus, to set down on Titan and see if there’s anything left of the three astronauts.


“Decay in Five Stages” by Julie E. Czerneda: A prequel story to her In the Company of others. Aaron Raner is an old engineer working on Thromberg station. When the humans realize that the seemingly innocuous alien Quill brings contamination, Aaron’s spacefaring friends are some of the first victims. Aaron is left with their baby and he needs to get the baby out of the station.

This is an enjoyable collection, even if many of the stories have horror elements and some are otherwise depressing. It was very interesting to see just how many different kinds of stories the writers got from salvage operations on derelict spaceships.

Next Page »