Short and Sublime: April 2015 Round-Up

8 May

April stories include historical fantasies, fairy tales, near futures, and one space fantasy tale.

“Wild Things Got To Go Free” (Beneath Ceaseless Skies #170) by Heather Clitheroe works because of, and is refreshing due to, its spare worldbuilding. Soldiers are rounding up and hunting down certain civilians, who are turning into, or have the potential to turn into, other creatures — which includes the young protagonist and her mother. The two young women in “The Ways of Walls and Words” (Tor.com) by Sabrina Vourvoulias are similarly threatened by the yoke of the real world Spanish empire; though they, and their ways of life, couldn’t be more different. It’s a story about friendship, Nahuatl magic, and the power behind language. “Ballroom Blitz” (Tor.com) by Veronica Schanoes is a punk rock fairy tale and an imperfect love story told from the point of view of the princes in the Brothers Grimm’s “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” Maureen Tanafon’s “Trollbooth” (Crossed Genres #28) is many things — fairytale horror, secondary world fantasy, a clever spin on popular children’s folklore — but underneath that is about family and what it means to not quite belong in one, but to fiercely protect it anyway.The Ways of Walls and Words by Sabrina Vourvoulias

Two stories of April are about women, one young and one elderly, in near futures that have no place for them. “Come My Love and I’ll Tell You a Tale” (Shimmer #24) by Sunny Moraine hints at the horrors around the edges of its post-apocalyptic landscape in a voice that is lovely: …Tell me the story about the time when we cared about false lives, little story lives within other stories, when we had time for such diversions, when we had theheart to care. And L.S. Johnson’s “Littoral Drift” (Lackington’s #6) takes place in a future in which scientists have halted aging, a dystopia for the one person for whom that doesn’t mean much.Lackington's Issue 6

My favorite of April is Kat Howard’s “The Universe, Sung in Stars” (Lightspeed #59), about the guardian of a tiny dying star. What first struck me about this story is its imagery:

I had just finished setting a rhodolite in the turning rose of a nebula when Carina walked into my workshop. She had a universe spinning around her as well — stars blinked in the darkness of her hair — but hers was living.

“It’s beautiful,” I said, picking up my loupe so I could examine it more closely. Pocket universes weren’t as rare as they used to be, but I had never seen one in resonance with a guardian before.

I walked an orbit around Carina. A comet flamed through the wildness of her curls, then flashed and died, bright echoes of its passing sparking like inverse shadows in the darkness.

It’s got cool science stuff like orreries and pocket universes, but ultimately it’s about the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, and at half the length of average contemporary short fiction, it may possess more emotion per word than any other story I’ve ever read before.

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