Elizabeth Bourne. Beasts.
A re-telling of the classic fairytale ‘Beauty and the Beast’, which is suppose makes it fantasy. Looking at the TV schedules and films it seems like vampires/werewolves/fairytales are a big thing amongst the younger generation (nb anyone under 50 is the younger generation as far as I’m concerned).
For me it’s a bit of a cul-de-sac, as this story illustrates : fine enough as far as it goes, but people have been retelling this story for quarter of a millenia, and the story would have to do something pretty different to make the effort worthwhile imho. Which it doesn’t. It does have a slightly more sensual element to it, but that simply reminded me of Walerian Borowczyk’s film from 1975 ‘La Bete’, which really did (ahem) bring something different to the fairy tale.
Doubtless those with more of a penchant for fantasy will have a slightly different take on the story.
Lavie Tidhar. The Indignity of Rain.
Neat little story from Tidhar. Not much happens : a woman in what was once called Tel Aviv is surprised to see an old lover back on Earth, and they share a drink. That is handled well, with the emotions carefully and subtly attended to, but what gives the story that extra something, is the three-dimensional nature of the setting, as Tidhar provides a detailed future society based on what we have now.
No info-dumping, just carefully blended into the narrative, giving a sense of time and place, of characters living out lives, of the consequences of past actions, and the potential for the story to continue after it ends.
Vylar Kaftan. Seeking Captain Random.
Nicely written contemporary story, with a well-drawn protagonist. It’s subtle and understated, not too heavy on the genre elements, with some neat touches (“All my paper-thin rationalizations collapse into ash, like a burning house of cards”), but the story perhaps missing just that extra something.
Ray Cluley. Bloodcloth.
Disturbingly macabre horror set in a village in the mountains, in a society where a tithe is paid in blood to the Bloodcloth. Little is explained, as the story focusses on the impact of the Bloodcloth, curtains of which hang in homes and schools, and which have to be fed.
Tracie Welser. A Body Without Fur.
Multi-perspective story, two human, two indigenous race. There are differences, linguistic and cultural (as is ever the case in such stories), but there are some deeper, common instincts and emotions lying below the xeno-cultural subtleties.
Tidhar and Kaftan the pick for me, creating strong characters in realistic settings, the other three not achieving that.