Strange Horizons, August 2011

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Strange Horizons, August 2011

“The Rugged Track” by Liz Argall (August 1 & 8, 2011)
“Souvenir” by Genevieve Valentine (August 15, 2011)

Reviewed by Chuck Rothman

Strange Horizons had a light schedule for August.  What with a two-part story, a week off, and a reprint, only two new stories appeared.  But they made up with the lack of quantity with a hatload of quality.

They started out the month with a bang, with “The Rugged Track,” a story in two installments by Liz Argall, a fantasy about Roller Derby that is wonderful from start to finish. It’s the story of Princess Bite, daughter of the great champion Lady Push Comes to Shove.  Lady Push is dying, and Princess Bite goes looking for Fierce Fairy, an ex-roller derby player, coach, and magician, who may hold the key to her cure. It’s a story about a quest, and about the nature of love, and manages to hit all the right notes on the way to a very satisfying ending. Argall has a way of creating evocative names that is reminiscent of Cordwainer Smith, but the characters are more than just names:  they’re people with plenty of personality.

Psychic powers seem out of fashion these days, but “Souvenir” by Genevieve Valentine starts with a different twist–psychic forensics. Claudia is a “touch,” with the ability to sense memories–the souvenirs of the title (clever use of the word)–attached to anything she touches.  The police call on her to help solve crimes, but her situation is far more complex than that.  Then a body is discovered that has no souvenirs.  She has to discover what’s going on, but the story is less about the mystery as about Claudia’s reaction to the situation.  Good characters here, and an in-depth imagination that fleshes out the concept.

Two first-class stories.