The latest reviews and mentions of Tachyon titles and authors from around the web.
Ellen Klages (Photo: Scott R. Kline), Jane Yolen (Jason Stemple), and Michael Swanwick (Beth Gwynn)
Childhood memories are a potent force in our lives, continuing to resonate within us even as we grow older and come to believe that we’ve left the magic of that early age behind. Ellen Klages’s collection of short stories recaptures some of the innocence and enchantment of childhood, in a series of tales by turn evocative, romantic and poignant. Sometimes her stories bring us into the world of children who are on the brink of new lives, new potential and new discoveries; while sometimes we find characters closer to ourselves: adults who have put away childish things, but who find themselves drawn back in various ways to the brink between that age and this. We find children confronted with the cruel realities of the adult world, and fairy tales for adults, with nods to fantasy, science fiction and straightforward fiction. There really is something for everyone.
Writing about a collection of short stories is always hard, and this won’t be a long post, because if I discuss any of the stories in depth I’ll end up giving away the endings and will spoil your fun. All I can do is give you a tantalising magic-lantern show of vignettes from several of the stories in the volume. A little girl breaks the trend by falling, not for the Disney princess, but for the witch Maleficent, who dares to be different. In a quiet suburb, two best friends watch a final sunrise together before one of them moves away; while, in another story, a vacation at summer camp turns into a beautiful study of shy first love. A couple of ladies who lunch take sharing their pudding to a whole new level; and two schoolgirls find themselves playing a board-game with a difference. One grown woman, returning to her childhood home, rekindles an old love affair; another must dispose of her late father’s cherished hanging ham. In misty San Francisco, a woman uses the power of maps and origami to save lives, always searching for the one who got away.
I’m not a great reader of short stories and so I can’t immediately think of anyone to whom I can compare Klages, to give you a feel for her style. She isn’t as intense and sensual as Angela Carter, but occasionally her twisted endings or lyricism struck a comparable note. If you like reading the kind of short stories featured on Tor.com, which explore speculative fiction from all kinds of angles, then Klages will be right up your street and, indeed, if you enjoy reading about strong, clever or adventurous women, then I’d encourage you to dip in. Now, of course, I have to find out what else Klages has written. Any recommendations?
The legendary Jane Yolen is interviewed in the March 2017 LOCUS.
For years I’ve been telling people, ‘I’m not a novelist.’ Yes, I’ve written novels, but I’m basically a poet. I love doing picture books. I write novels reluctantly. However, last year, I was invited to be on a panel for historical novelists in Northampton MA, and I decided the first thing I had to say was, ‘I’m really a short form writer.’ But I figured, before I said that, I’d better go count the novels, and when I got to 60, I stopped. I’m an accidental novelist. An accidental, overachieving novelist.
The science fiction I read tends to be more anthropological SF, like Le Guin, or alternative science SF, or dystopian. Except for THE MARTIAN, which I quite enjoyed. I cheated – I saw the movie first and then I read the book. Much of the science goes over my head. My husband of 46 years was a scientist. When I wrote the Pit Dragon books, I went to him and said, ‘I have to build dragons that can get off the ground.’ Flying dinosaurs, they’re huge, how do we get them to fly? ‘Hollow bones,’ he said. A lot of science fiction, like a lot of fantasy, is hand-wavey – don’t look at the man behind the curtain, that sort of thing. Hard science is not in my wheelhouse. I write about natural science, both in poems and books: I’m fascinated by natural science. Once you get to the heavy lifting, the microscopic, or world-building in outer space, I can appreciate parts of it, but I can’t write it.
‘BRIAR ROSE was burned on the steps of the Board of Education in Kansas City. It’s funny. I live in Massachusetts, and Banned in Boston has always been a badge of honor. If you’ve had a book banned in Boston, the book has done really well. Even though it didn’t affect sales badly, I think when you write a story, you want everyone to love it, or be moved by it, or be changed by it, or be riveted by it, and when somebody actually burns it, you feel as though somehow you’re caught in FAHRENHEIT 451. It’s violent and ludicrous. They took three books out of the library and torched them on a barbecue because they all had gay characters. They didn’t do a bonfire. A bonfire I could get behind. Surprisingly, one part of me really was hurt. That’s my book. I thought, ‘You bastards. You took it out of the library. Why didn’t you go buy a book? Torch your own damn book.’ The idea that we still think, in this day and age, that if you don’t like a book, or a magazine article, or an album, or a person, that you can throw them on a fire, is really hard for me. So one part of me was hurt, and one part of me was horrified, and one part of me wanted to fight back.
I love Swanwick’s novels, but I think he’s definitely a short story writer at heart – he mentions in the introduction here how they’re something he always kept writing despite how badly they pay compared to novels. They’re something that he clearly loves and feels are at the heart of the SF genre, and I think there’s a lot of truth to that. In any case, these are pretty much all excellent. Definitely worth checking out if you want to give Swanwick a try (or check out the first story online which is a lovely blend of Swanwick’s characteristic mix of the futuristic and fantastic).
For more info on WICKED WONDERS, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover design by Elizabeth Story
For more info on THE EMERALD CIRCUS, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover design by Elizabeth Story
For more information on NOT SO MUCH, SAID THE CAT, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover design by Elizabeth Story