Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

“The Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue”, by John Scalzi

April 17, 2012 Leave a comment

“The Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue” is a 2011 fantasy/humor short story by John Scalzi.  Some dragons who don’t exist are discussed by some guard and wizards, who do.  Exist, that is.  Also, leeches and science.  It has been nominated for the Hugo for Best Short Story of 2012.

Non-Spoiler Summary

Oh, god, oh, god, so funny–you have to try reading this one out loud.  The first sentence will take you ten minutes if you don’t laugh, and longer if you do, which I hope you will, because oh god funny.

This is literally an April Fool’s joke that Scalzi and played on us.  It’s put forth as the prologue to the first volume of a trilogy of fantasy novels, but it actually is just a standalone lark of a work.  But darn it, if he could keep this up for even one book, I’d surely be there.

Why should you read it?

Did I mention the funny?  Good, because if you’re looking for deep ideas or brilliant insight into the human condition, you won’t find it here–this one is about the funny.  And leeches.

Where to find “The Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue”

The story was originally published at, where it is still available.

“The Paper Menagerie”, by Ken Liu

April 16, 2012 3 comments

“The Paper Menagerie” is a 2011 fantasy short story by Ken Liu.  A young boy, son of an American and a Chinese mail-order bride, experiences alienation and the love of his animated origami pets.  And also his mother.  It has been nominated for the Hugo for Best Short Story of 2012.

Non-Spoiler Summary

This is the first in a series of posts I’ll be making about award-nominated stories.  John Scalzi was kind enough to link to the 2012 Hugo short story nominees, which got me started on this project again.

A young boy experiences the pain of being different, in this case because his mother was a mail order bride who doesn’t speak English well.  She gives him gifts of animated origami animals, which he comes to appreciate over time.

Why should you read it?

This is a sad story.  It’s the story of one human being trying to understand another, and it’s very well done.  It’s the smallest possible conflict: one’s struggle to understand the other, but the emotions are very real and worth experiencing.

Oddly enough, this turns out to be the story recommended by Christopher Kastensmidt in the discussion thread for the previous post. . . .

Where to find “The Paper Menagerie”

The story was originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, which has generously allowed us to read it online.

“Dragon Dreams on Cardboard Wings And Tiny Scraps of Yellow”, by Christopher Kastensmidt

February 9, 2012 3 comments

“Dragon Dreams on Cardboard Wings And Tiny Scraps of Yellow” is a 2011 slipstream/fantasy short story by Christopher Kastensmidt. A tech wage-slave discovers that her cubicle prison isn’t the trap she thought it was.

Non-Spoiler Summary

“Dragon Dreams” is another one of those stories that short enough that I’m really unable to summarize it without spoiling it. Susan, a dispirited computer programmer, has a momentary revelation that shows her a way out of her dreary existence.

Why should you read it?

It’s short. It’s lovely. It brightened my day, and had a real poetic quality.

Where to find “Dragon Dreams on Cardboard Wings And Tiny Scraps of Yellow”

The story was originally published in Daily Science Fiction, where you can still read it online.

“Always”, by Karen Joy Fowler

February 2, 2012 Leave a comment

“Always” is a 2007 science fiction short story by Karen Joy Fowler.  A woman details her time with a group of supposed immortals, following a charismatic leader.  It won the Nebula for Best Short Story in 2007.

Non-Spoiler Summary

Our viewpoint character, a young woman, moves to the city of Always with her boyfriend.  In Always, run by Brother Porter, everyone is immortal.  Supposedly.  The issue is left open, although there’s evidence that she is being deceived.  However, the effect of the city (cult) on people is very real.

Why should you read it?

“Always” handles the question of whether or not the immortality of the people of Always is real quite gently, and leads you to believe . . . that even if she’s not immortal, she’s been positively changed by the experience of living in Always.  The story follows her progression from basically infatuated with her boyfriend through an almost ethereal translation.

Where to find “Always”

The story was originally published in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, where you can still read it online.  There is also audio.

“Ghosts of New York”, by Jennifer Pelland

September 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Warning: This story is not appropriate for children.  It is not fun.  It may offend you, that I chose to list it at all, or that I chose to list it today.  But it helped me get ready for today, and I thought some of you might not know about it.

“Ghosts of New York”, as I’m sure you can guess, is a story about the fallout of 9/11.  The story, particularly, of the ghosts that it left behind.  Literal ghosts–not ghosts as in the images of destruction that every one of us over fifteen can call up, but haunts.  The spectral remainders of the people who jumped.

There are no answers in this story.  For one thing, it has a severe weak point, in that it never explains why only jumpers become ghosts.  It doesn’t solve, salve, or soften 9/11.

It does remind me of the feelings that I had on that day.  It doesn’t make me experience them again, but it removes enough of the scab to remind me that tragedy and death, however horrible, are part of the flow of history and our lives.  This isn’t the first time New York has had a disaster.  It won’t be the last.

Please, let it be the last time it’s deliberate, though.

Text: Available courtesy of Apex Publications
Audio: Podcastle 153

“Card Sharp”, by Rajan Khanna

September 5, 2011 4 comments

New systems of magic. Vengeance. Master and apprentice. Desperate action. This story came from an anthology called The Way of the Wizard, and while I haven’t read all of the stories in the book, if this story is indicative, I’m going to have to.

Rajan Khanna is a familiar name to me most because he narrates a lot of stories over at Escape Artists, the parent organization for Escape Pod, Podcastle, and Pseudopod. He’s a great reader, but I’m only starting to get a sense of how good a writer he is, too.

“Card Sharp” is a story set in a Maverick-like pulp-Western world, so the story is almost genre even without the magic. The magic, however, is fairly unique and well implemented. Card sharps can enchant a single deck of cards, giving them 54 (jokers count) spells. In a lifetime. No more. The usual tropes of magic ranging from magic as unlimited resource to magic as something you have to rest to recuperate don’t begin to limit a “mage” as much as this does–the quotes are because I don’t even feel comfortable calling someone a mage when magic is so rare even in their lives.

The story goes quickly and is compelling, and the reading is excellent. This story gets a high “fun” rating from me.

Text: From The Way of the Wizard, but the story is available for free.
Audio: Podcastle 147

“The Green Book”, by Amal El-Mohtar

February 24, 2011 Leave a comment

“The Green Book” is a story I’d never heard of until the Nebula nominations came out this week, but it’s a story I’ll be rereading shortly.

The Green Book is an actual book, but for at least part of the story, it also functions as the body of a deceased woman, and it’s pages as her voice. And there are only so many pages. There are several voices in the story (or in the book) and they make it very atmospheric.

Text of “The Green Book”