With WICKED WONDERS, Ellen Klages demonstrates a sensitive grasp of historical change and human development


In THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF SCIENCE FICTION (January 2018), Sandra Lindow reviews Ellen Klages’ WICKED WONDERS.

WICKED WONDERS’s fourteen short stories similarly mix
the mundane and the magical. An “Introduction” by fellow
Motherboard member Karen Joy Fowler describes Klages’s
narrative style as “driving alongside, but never into, danger”. The danger is more often than not left to the imagination
of her readers. It is a technique that depends upon readers’
cultural and genre literacy, and the process is often facilitated
through the use of a naïve viewpoint character. More often
than not, her stories are thought experiments that combine
unrelated concepts.  “Mrs. Zeno’s Paradox” concerns an intersection
in a cafe between a shared brownie, quantum physics,
and time travel. “Caligo Lane” combines time travel with
cartography and origami. “Goodnight Moons” deftly unites
tropes from Andy Weir’s The Martian (2011), Margaret Wise
Brown’s picture book, Goodnight Moon (1947), and Robert
A. Heinlein’s Podkayne of Mars (1962) (unconstrained by
Heinlein’s limited ability to see a meaningful, self-actualized
future for Poddy). “Amicae Aeternum” describes the last
day two best friends can spend together before one leaves
on a generation ship. “Woodsmoke” is neither sf nor fantasy
but speculative, a truly gender-bending coming-of-age tale
set realistically in a summer camp for girls.


Klages, whose debut novel, The Green Glass Sea (2006), won the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, shows a sensitive grasp of historical change and human development with a particular focus on that childhood time when children have agency but magical events can still be accepted, creating a semi-permeable membrane between the real and the fantastic. These are stories about love and loss but not the expected ones.


Photo: Scott R. Klein


In this episode we talk about

The long incubation for the ideas that became Passing Strange
Lesbian culture in mid-century San Francisco and the San Francisco World’s Fair on Treasure Island
The hidden interconnectedness of Ellen’s novels
The love of historic objects and texts
Historical fiction as “time travel” for the reader

Publications mentioned:

Passing Strange (tor.com, for signed copies: Borderlands Books, Amazon)
“Caligo Lane” (originally published in Subterranean Online, Winter 2014, available in the collection WICKED WONDERS Tachyon Publications, 2017, Amazon)
“Hey Presto” (originally published in the anthology Fearsome Magics by Jonathan Strahan, 2014, available in the collection WICKED WONDERS Tachyon Publications, 2017, Amazon)
The Green Glass Sea (Viking Children’s Books, 2006, Amazon)
“Time Gypsy” (originally published in Bending the Landscape: Science Fiction, edited by Nicola Griffith and Stephen Pagel (Overlook Press, 1999), also available in the collection PORTABLE CHILDHOODS Tachyon Publications, 2007, Amazon)


For more info on WICKED WONDERS, visit the Tachyon page.

Cover design by Elizabeth Story

For more info on  PORTABLE CHILDHOODS, visit the Tachyon page.

Cover by Ellen Klages

Design by John D. Berry

For more info on TIME GYPSY, visit the Tachyon page.

Cover by Emily Netterfield

Design by Eleanor Farrell