Patricia A. McKillip at Westercon 64 in the Fairmont San Jose Hotel on Saturday 2 July 2011 (Stephen Gold/Wikimedia Commons)
Winner of a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, Patricia McKillip’s books are beloved for their timelessness—her fantasy novels are simultaneously classical and subversive, lyrical and filled with life and energy. Her latest release is a short fiction collection, assembling short pieces that range from an ecological fairy tale novella to a story of witches and mermaids. It’s both essential for fans and a lovely introduction to her work.
Gary K. Wolfe in the June, 2016 LOCUS praises the collection and author.
For a career of more than 40 years, Patricia McKillip hasn’t been particularly prolific in short fiction, but her generous output of first-rate novels (most recently KINGFISHER, reviewed here last month) has more than satisfied a devoted readership. Still, a rare new story collection is something to look forward to, especially when, as with DREAMS OF DISTANT SHORES, it includes three previously unpublished tales, a long novella all but unavailable since its original 1994 publication, an essay by McKillip on high fantasy, and an appreciative and sharply insightful afterword by Peter Beagle. Part of the reason a collection like this is especially intriguing is that, as McKillip herself points out in her essay, the romantic epic conventions of high fantasy have so often been the basic stuff of her novels, and watching her simultaneously manipulate, celebrate, invert, and challenge those conventions is a large part of her appeal. But there are other forms of fantasy, perhaps more gemlike, that she also seems drawn to, and even though the present collection offers us only six stories in addition to the novella and the non-fiction pieces, it’s enough to make you wonder what more she might be able to do in this area.
For WORLDS WITHOUT END, Allie McCarn lauds the work.
Every time I have read one of Patricia A. McKillip‘s novels, I have been struck by her poetic language and the vibrancy of her fantastical worlds. Therefore, I was delighted to have a chance to read and review an advance review copy of her latest collection of short fiction, DREAMS OF DISTANT SHORES (to be published June 14, 2016). The book collects seven works of short fiction, one essay by McKillip, and a warm and insightful afterword by Peter S. Beagle. McKillip’s essay is about her style of writing high fantasy, which involves simultaneously following and breaking the rules of the genre. I enjoyed the glimpse into her writing process, and I think the balance between tradition and originality that she describes is one of the things that has kept drawing me back to her fiction.
The short fiction in DREAMS OF DISTANT SHORES, though, is far from traditional high fantasy. There are no queens, courts and heroes, and the stories take place in worlds not unlike our own. I thought the title itself was a remarkably accurate description of the contents within, since each tale felt like a dream permeated by a different style of magic. The vein of strangeness that runs through every work ties the collection of stories together.
In closing, this was an excellent collection of short fiction by Patricia A. McKillip. Each of the stories takes place in a different world, with a different tone and approach to the supernatural. With such a range, from the surreality of “Weird” to the Victorian painters of “Gorgon in the Cupboard”, I expect it will please fantasy fans with a variety of tastes. As for me, I have enjoyed visiting each of McKillip’s DREAMS OF DISTANT SHORES.
Chris Kammerud of STRANGE HORIZONS reviews the book.
In Patricia A. McKillip’s latest collection of stories, DREAMS OF DISTANT SHORES, we encounter our fair share of so-called witches, mermaids, heroes, and heroines. We are, it would seem, on familiar ground, and so, perhaps, we may think we already know the shape these stories will take. We’ve seen it all before, haven’t we? High fantasy has, over the last forty years, on occasion, run the risk of going the way of American fast food, of giving rise in its oft-epic success to a kind of monoculture—the latter producing endless fields of the same old boring potatoes, the former producing endless fields of the same old magical orphans.
McKillip, thankfully, while possessing the deepest reverence for the rules of high fantasy, also finds those rules rather boring and in constant need of breaking.
“At its best,” McKillip says, “fantasy rewards the reader with a sense of wonder about what lies within the heart of the commonplace world.” It’s a worthy goal of all stories, whatever genre. And, at its best, DREAMS OF DISTANT SHORES does this, managing to show us, tucked inside the commonplace forms of fantasy, glimpses of things which remain timeless, nameless, and true.
For more info on DREAMS OF DISTANT SHORES, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover by Thomas Canty