Albert E. Cowdrey. Scatter My Ashes.
Cowdrey eschews his usual deep south setting, reaching into Russian and Jewish folklore, to delve into the dark secrets of an unfrocked Russian holy man who uses his dark powers to gain a footing in the US. His daughter comes to regret instructions she gives to a faithful manservant which are open to interpretation, leading to dark doings.
Paul Di Filippo. A Pocketful of Faces.
A clever detective thriller based around issues of identity theft and celebrity. A few years hence (such that Facebook is a name used for a police data system, it’s name a throwback to an ‘old’ website), and it is possible, by nabbing a piece of someone’s DNA, to re-create their face. And it is possible to have that face fully functioning on an android – invariably for illegal, or at the very least, unpleasant reasons.
There’s a hard-boiled detective, and as it’s a Paul Di Filippo story, there’s an amazonian female accomplice. Except that she (unless the voraciously sexually active females from Di Filippo’s earlier stories), this is on is emotionally frozen, and needs thawing out, rather than hosing down.
Good to see a Di Filippo story again, they are way too few and far between these days.
Ken Liu. The Paper Menagerie.
Another effective tale drawing on Chinese culture, following his ‘The Literomancer’ (F&SF Oct 2010 – reviewed here and ‘Tying Knots’ (Clarkesworld Magazine Jan 2011 – rreviewed here).
Here a man with an American father and Chinese mother reflects on his relationship with her. Her father brought her back from China, a mail order bride, and as a teenager the son began to have contempt rather than love for her. The early days, where she uses old family magic to animate origami animals she makes, are poignant, and following her death, it is her words, written on the very paper of these animals, that allow him to reflect on their relationship, and to fully understand her life’s journey.
Sheila Finch. The Evening and the Morning.
A lengthy conclusion to Finch’s ‘lingster’ story arc. I’ve eschewed these stories, so will pass on this one.
Walter C. DeBill, Jr., Richard Gavin, Robert M. Price, W.H. Pugmire, Jeffrey Thomas, and Don Webb. Night Gauntlet.
Short dose of campus-based academic eldritch horrors, with the dark horrors complemented by some science (“Dr. Heyschius had been at work on a special torsion field theory that took Anatoly Akimov’s work and replaced his solutions to Maxwell equations with Type IIB string theory while maintaining the “alternate” interpretations of Einstein-Cartan theory”), written round-robin.
James Patrick Kelly. Happy Ending 2.0.
Kelly in good form in a short about a couple trying to recapture their youthful love for each other by returning to the cottage in the country where it all started. The sour taste of their current relationship comes across well, making all the sweeter the surprise in the cottage that awaits them.
Francis Marion Soty. The Second Kalandar’s Tale.
Full title of the story includes : “A story of the encounters between Hassain Mohammed al-Shehr, a Prince of Arabia, and the Ifrit Jirjaris bin Rajmus, in a Thousand Nights and A Night; translated from the original Arabic by Sir Richard Burton”.
So no surprise then that it’s a tale of djinns, sorcery, enchantment, love that’s a page turner.
Karl Bunker. Bodyguard.
A human on an alien planet reflects on the loss of his wife, who has elected to join the Conflux, the super-advanced raced whose alien technology has brought him to this world. The society in which he is embedded is based around ‘joining’, and he finds his alliances and ties to Earth and humanity being replaced to ties to the new planet and its inhabitants. Short but effective.
Kali Wallace. Botanical Exercises for Curious Girls.
Excellent story from an author new to me.
Young Rosalie lives a very sheltered life, wheelchair-bound, house-bound. But there’s something strange happenning – during each day a whole year passes in the garden she longingly looks out on through the windows. And her governesses are passing strange.
We find out more about Rosalie, and the fantasy takes a darker tone, in a lovingly crafted story
James Stoddard. The Ifs of Time.
The ancient Windkeep, Enoch, winds his weary way to a high floor in the house/world that is Evenmere. There he finds four aged ones, passing the time through the telling of tales. He sits through one tale from each, each a tale worth telling, until all is resolved. A clever story to end a strong issue.
An excellent issue.