The Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories. ★★★★
This collection of short stories is one of the strongest I’ve seen in a while; definitely the strongest I’ve yet read in 2017.
This collection takes stories by twenty-two authors from all over the world, all dealing in some form with the djinn – the fantastical beings of smoke and fire. I picked up this collection due to some authors who’s work I was already familiar with – Neil Gaiman, Claire North, Amal El-Mohtar, Helene Wecker, and Nnedi Okorafor. Turns out, most of my favorite stories were by authors who were new to me. Oh, and the Neil Gaiman story was an excerpt from American Gods, so don’t pick this collection up based on him.
Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson. ★★★★
I’m a huge fan of Brandon Sanderson’s interrelated worlds – the Cosmere. Obviously, I had to read this collection of shorter Cosmere stories (short stories and novellas). While it took me a while to get to it, better late than never!
This collection is probably not a great starting point to those unfamiliar with Sanderson’s Cosmere work. While some of the stories stand independently, many tie in to his novels. In particular, you really need to have read the original Mistborn trilogy before reading Mistborn: Secret History. I would instead suggest The Emperor’s Soul or Sixth of Dusk as shorter Cosmere works that can be read on their own. Or The Way of Kings, Elantris, or Mistborn: The Final Empire if you’d prefer to start with a novel.
I didn’t spend much time with short fiction in January and February, but I’ve now returned to investigating the wonderful stories available online.
The Voices of Martyrs by Maurice Broaddus. ★★★1/2
In these stories, Maurice Broaddus speaks with the voices of martyrs – past, present, and future. The anthology is divided accordingly into these sections. All or almost all of these stories involve some fantasy or science fiction element. Personally, I found I liked the future stories the best.
The collection begins with “Warrior of the Sunrise Rite of Passage,” the tale of a woman warrior in a long ago Africa, battling strange and ferocious monsters. From there, the collection moves to areas of the past that are more easily pinpointed in history books. “Rite of Passage” tells of the Atlantic Slave Trade. In “Ah Been Buked,” a young woman survives slavery in the American South. “A Solider’s Story” is narrated by a vampire who witnesses the unspeakable destruction of a town’s black community. And in “Shadow Boxing” an up and coming boxer fights against segregation. I’m not one hundred percent sure if “Rite of Passage” and “Shadow Boxing” had speculative elements, but they’re the outliers in that regard.
Long Hidden edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older. ★★★ 1/2
Long Hidden is a speculative fiction anthology focusing on the those marginalized by history – people of color, queer people, disabled people, women, ect. The stories are set in different periods and locals throughout Earth’s history, and all of them involve some fantastical element.
Long Hidden was of fairly average quality when it came to short story collections. There’s a number of stories I liked, a lot that left me cold, and a few that I struggled with. I doubt it will take long for me to forget the vast majority of the stories in Long Hidden. The one exception is my favorite story of the collection, Ken Liu’s “Knotting Grass, Holding Ring,” a dark tale of two women struggling to survive as their city is invaded. For all its brutality, “Knotting Grass, Holding Ring” also managed to create some beauty.
Love Beyond Body, Space and Time: An Indigenous LGBT Sci-Fi Anthology edited by Hope Nicholson. ★★★
If you can’t tell from the title, Love Beyond Body, Space and Time is a short story collection focused on LGBT and two-spirit science fiction and fantasy and written by all indigenous authors. I always have an eye out for queer SFF, and I also haven’t read much by Native American authors. I want to correct this flaw in my reading, and this anthology looked like it would introduce me to a number of relevant authors.
The only author in the anthology I’d heard of before was Daniel Heath Justice, although this was my first chance to read his work. As I’d hoped, I enjoyed several short stories in this collection and will seek out more of those author’s work.
Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling edited by Jaym Gates and Monica Valentinelli. ★★★
Upside Down is a collection of short stories intended to subvert common tropes in storytelling and essays discussing trope usage. The vast majority of the collection is short stories, and wow are there a lot of stories. Like in any collection, there were stories that impressed me and stories that didn’t. However, on the whole I found the collection to be on the weaker side.
Going into the collection, I wasn’t aware of most of the contributing authors. I picked it up mainly for Delilah S. Dawson, Alyssa Wong, and Nisi Shawl. I found Shawl’s story to be all right if not exceptional, but I did love both Wong and Dawson’s work. Alyssa Wong took on Yellow Peril in her short story “The White Dragon,” about a girl with the ability to see curses. I loved how magic was described here! Alyssa Wong never disappoints. Dawson twisted First Period Panic in her story “The First Blood of Poppy Dupree,” creating an intriguing mix of Southern Gothic and Greek mythology.