— May 2015

Note: This post was imported from an old content-management system, so please excuse any inconsistencies in formatting., May 2015

The Two Weddings of Bronwyn Hyatt” by Alex Bledsoe

Elephants and Corpses” by Kameron Hurley
Ginga” by Daniel Jose Older
Zapped” by Sherwood Smith

Reviewed by Bob Blough

The stories this month at seem a thin lot. They are unfinished or parts of series with no real endings.

The story that is part of a series but has a beginning, middle, and end is “The Two Weddings of Bronwyn Hyatt” by Alex Bledsoe. This is a breezy fantasy set in rural United States. It concerns Bronwyn, a tofu (fairies transplanted from the old country), and her meeting with Orla, a fairy of the new country. The fairies of the new country have been considered extinct for many years. Bronwyn makes a bargain with Orla to wear Orla’s wedding dress at her wedding and invite Orla to it, if Bronwyn will come to her wedding at a later time. As these kinds of bargains with the fairies stories go there is more here than meets the eye. This is a fairly typical fantasy that I can only describe as “cute.” Take that as you may, it is at least a complete story in one package despite being part of a series.

Kameron Hurley is a very good writer. However, her new story, “Elephant’s and Corpses” feels rushed and unfinished. The story is about a man named Nev who can move his soul into dead bodies when the one he is currently wearing is dying. These kind of people are called body mercs but since the latest war is over there is not much use for him. He is working with Tera as his body manager. She keeps his various bodies cleaned and on ice in case something happens to Nev. They get involved in religious intrigue in an unnamed city of rather generic cut. The story is a complete story – but it is oddly un-moving, bland and not very well fleshed out. Even with a number of deaths, body swapping and an elephant it is not one of Ms. Hurley’s most interesting works.

Ginga” by Daniel Jose Older has a wonderfully written teen age protagonist, an interesting premise of a half dead man, named Carlos, who works for the New York Council of the Dead cleaning up irregularities between the living and the dead – namely ghosts. There is lots of action and a plot that is rather too quickly cleared up in order for the author to set up continuing stories with this character. I would like my stories to at least come to some fruitful end – not a rushed set up for the next episode. But if you already like this specific series you will enjoy this squib. Or you can read this to see if you like the writing and world, but don’t expect a satisfying short story.

Zapped” is another YA story and for most of its length I quite enjoyed it. Sherwood Smith is a writer who knows how to create rounded, sympathetic characters. This is a story about teenagers who have super powers and are decidedly unsure of their gender identities, and with coming to grips with some of these thorny problems. Laurel is a 16 year old girl with the talent of telekinesis who finally finds other children with talents. They do not use their talents stupidly or out in the open. They want to help others with their gifts. When an LGBT student is assaulted they set out to find the perpetrator. The story is really about how these kids work together as a team while being unsure of who or what they really are. It also discusses the problem of prejudice within the LGBT community. These are weighty affairs and cannot be encapsulated in one short story, but kudos to the writer for bringing them up. The problem is the story just peters out with no real ending. The realization hit me that I was reading the first chapter in a novel or another series and I became frustrated. I liked it enough, perhaps, to get the book when it is published, but again, I was denied the reason I love the short fiction form – not as continuation of a saga or as an introduction to one – but because a well written short story – say, from Godwin’s “The Cold Equations” to Silverberg’s “Passengers,” is a complete reading experience in and of itself.