Strange Horizons, 14-21 February 2005

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"Shard of Glass" by Alaya Dawn Johnson

"Rooster" by Jenn Reese

"Shard of Glass" by Alaya Dawn Johnson, a novelette delivered in two parts, concludes at Strange Horizons this week.  Leah is a biracial child in America during an era still besieged by racism and bigotry.  Her mother is a glamorous black woman, a glaring anomaly, who steals a mysterious shard of glass from Leah's white father and his dangerous and powerful family.  The coveted glass displays images of the past—memories—and the family uses it to maintain their political sway.  They will do anything to get it back, even kill.  Leah and her mother become fugitives, running from country to country, always only a half step ahead of their pursuers.

Johnson's story is evocative, rich with sensory details from around the world: Japan, Nepal, Luxembourg.  She takes us on an exhilarating journey of cultural exploration, social expectations, and ingrained racial injustice that culminates in a satisfying conclusion.  Her poignant handling of racial issues is deft and thoughtful, effective without being overbearing or ham-fisted, making for a poignant and effective tale.

"Rooster" by Jenn Reese is the second in a series of monthly flash pieces titled Tales of the Chinese Zodiac.  Chen is plagued by nightmare dreams of a monster rooster—a warning from the gods, certainly.  But when he tries to alert others of the looming giant rooster threat, in classic Cassandra fashion, he is not believed. 

There is a "Chicken Little" feel to "Rooster," perhaps an inevitable comparison considering the zodiac animal in question, but unlike the children's story, Reese's tale contained a dark, bloody slant. 

Flash fiction often has the shortcoming that it tends to end just as it becomes interesting, or the ending reads more like a punch line than a climax and dénouement.  "Rooster" didn't change my overall impression of flash fiction, but as such it was still enjoyable.