Review of Third Flatiron Best of 2017 (Third Flatiron Anthologies Book 21)

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This is a collection of thirteen speculative fiction short stories edited by Juliana Rew, including her choice of the best stories from the Third Flatiron Anthologies published in 2017. These stories range from SF to fantasy to horror, and right now it looks it’s only offered as an ebook.

Third Flatiron Anthologies has proved to be a pretty reliable series for lightweight, entertaining fiction, mostly without the heavy political messages that sometimes turn up in short stories just lately. These offerings follow that standard, including everything from the quirky to the serious.

The stories include John Sunseri’s take on a different racetrack, James Beamon’s humorous tale of programmed troops, Konstantine Paradias’ projection of CRISPR in the kitchen, Brian Trent’s vision of Dorian Gray after the fall, Jean Graham’s spooky comeuppance for murder, Ville Nummenpaa’s contest for the most boring speaker, Wulf Moon’s Beast of the Month Club, Rati Mehrotra’s vision of the afterlife, Keyan Bowes’ integrated pre-school, Vaughan Stanger’s burdensome message, and Jill Hand’s projection of what your dog might say to you if it could talk. There were a couple of stand-outs. I especially liked J.L. Forrest’s witchy tale of rescue and Premee Mohamed’s vision of self-sacrifice.

Three and a half stars.


Review of “Bloodybones” by Paul F. Olson

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This novella was a finalist for the 2017 World Fantasy Award. It was published for the first time in the author’s collection Whispered Echoes.

David’s friend Amy disappears from her property at Vassey Point during a violent storm. David helps her father close up her home in the old lighthouse, but six months later, he’s drawn to return. He meets Amy’s sister Karen wandering on the property, and the two of them strike up an acquaintance. They begin reading through Amy’s journals, finding creepy things. Can they solve the mystery of what happened to her?

Good points: This is a psychological horror, a ghost story that takes shape as the supernatural closes down slowly but surely on the two protagonists. It’s very smooth and offhand, so I gather Olson is very practiced at this. It includes a lot of information from David (as the narrator) that gives us local color and background on Amy, Karen and the history of the point that’s led to its haunting. Also, I can see the film in my head. This is very cinematic.

Not so good points: The narrator’s casual, matter-of-fact tone keeps the events here from becoming really scary. It’s very white bread and traditional. The techniques for generating horror are fairly standard—enclosed spaces, violent storms, ghostly presences, etc. I appreciate Olson’s technique and subtlety, but this just shivered my nerves a little. It didn’t really scare me.

Four stars.

Review of Everfair by Nisi Shawl

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This alternate history novel is a Nebula finalist published by Tor Books. The number of recommendations for the novels is gone from the page now, but the Wayback Machine suggests this one came from behind, with maybe four recommendations.

The story begins in 1889. British Fabian socialists join forces with missionaries to buy land in the Belgian Congo from King Leopold II. They set up the colony Everfair, which takes in refugees from Leopold’s atrocities, escaped slaves and other political undesirables who go on to build a life alongside the native population. Over the period until 1919, they fight three wars and try to bring together the diverse groups that make up the colony’s population.

One the positive side, this book has a lot of charm. It’s written in a style that suggests 19th century prose, and uses a gentle, non-dramatic approach to relate the stories of various characters dealing with the issues of love, family and the challenging social, industrial and political backdrop of the 19th century fin de siècle.

On the other hand, this is another book without a plot. It’s composed of 3-4 page vignettes that spotlight characters along a timeline and reveal some of the environment they are living in. There is no action line, and I ended up without a clear vision of the characters, what the settlement looks like or how the colony works. Characters emerged and disappeared, and I didn’t get much of an idea of the larger politics. There were a number of interesting threads that went nowhere. A move by the African king in Everfair to expel whites provided something of a focus on racism at the end, but the coverage was too brief to really investigate the fallout.

Because of the lack of plot and action line, this book was a slow read, and it’s best enjoyed in small bites. Keep it by the bedside and read a bit every night. I’m not sure what to say about it as a novel, because I think it’s really a collection instead.

Three stars.

Review of It’s Come to Our Attention, edited by Julianna Rew

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FeatherPenClipArtTimeout from the award nominations for just a general review.

This is a collection of short stories published by Third Flatiron. The company publishes themed anthologies on a regular schedule, and this is number 15 of an ongoing series. This collection includes 14 spec fiction short stories on the theme “under the radar.” This is the idea that some things are happening quietly, without a lot of fanfare, which could still be extremely significant to our lives.

This is a light, quick read. The stories are solid and entertaining, and several of them are also thought-provoking, which I always like. It’s a tough theme and it’s a stretch to find it in some of these stories, although that doesn’t detract from their entertainment value. The stories include time glitches, missing basements, wishing wells, immortality, possible alien invasions, multiplying obsessions, the persistence of extinction and revolutions fermenting in the trash heaps. I especially liked “Surplus Army,” “Spirit Cat,” “The Wishing Well,” and “The Thing Is, the Basement.”

Three and a half stars.

Vivienne Raper on short stories and the Hugos: Another slate?


55327_girl-writing_md I’ve been checking around today and found where Vivienne Raper has blogged about what short stories she might have nominated for the Hugo Awards, then compared her choices to the Sad/Rabid Puppy slate. You can read it here.

Raper notes how difficult it is to get any kind of short story nominated under the current Hugo system (where a nominee has to get 5% of nominations to appear on the ballot). This has been pointed out by a lot of bloggers in recent months–she’s right that it’s a huge obstacle for short story writers. I think Raper is also correct that a wide readership is necessary, meaning it’s nearly impossible to get nominated if you appear in a token payment magazine, for example.

Raper’s choices are her own, of course, but there’s some interesting discussion that comes up in the Comments section. There are some complaints about the shortcomings of current short story reviews. Also, if I’m reading the comments correctly, folks are proposing a system to make up lists of stories and rate them for possible nomination. I agree something like this would be very helpful, but isn’t this just the kind of slate the Puppies have been complaining about? Hm.

Review of “Wisdom from My Internet,” by Michael Z. Williamson

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reading-clipart-6This related work was published by Patriarchy Press.

This nomination is for a collection of short comments, possibly from Twitter, where Williamson satirizes various subjects. Because the statements are very short, there’s little depth; however, because he’s a satirist, these are very pointed and have interesting layers of meaning. Williamson’s intro to the packet is highly entertaining, as is his bio. I don’t know that this is especially related to SF&F, but it was fun to read. Three stars.

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