The Angels of the Abyss by Iain Grant

Steampunk: the genre people love to love and also love to hate. Poor steampunk; I’d dare say you’re more recognizable as a fashion statement than a subgenre. Not to your lovers, though. No, your lovers cling to you and caress you and might even strip you naked, peering into the gears of your undercarriage.

I’m not a neo-Victorian. You won’t see me donning a top hat, goggles, or a corset/parasol combo. On the other hand, I’m not afraid of button boots.  I don’t mind it when steam engines and aether turn my speculative fiction into a brassy gear-house. I’m partial to zeppelins. Continue reading…

Winter’s Wife by Elizabeth Hand

Every once in a while, I get the urge to drop everything and move back to Michigan in order to live in a shack. Winter’s Wife is not about Michigan; it’s about Maine. I’ve never been to Maine, but based on the stunning descriptions in this story, it sounds a lot like Michigan but with an ocean and an obsession with seafood instead of venison. I may be way off mark here on this, but now I’m thinking Maine might be lovely, too.

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve got a small love affair going on with magical realism. There’s something about stories that start out ordinary and then skew themselves into a strange and peculiar fantasy. The dovetail here is well worth the wait, which I don’t always think is the case. Continue reading…

Socko’s First Case by Tim Arnot

When I was a kid, I had a pretty unhealthy obsession with the game MindTrap. I never once managed to get anyone to play the actual game with me, but I would pour over the cards and spend hours trying to solve the logic and lateral thinking puzzles. While this would make me absolutely no fun to play lateral thinking games with as an adult, it also turned me into a sucker for locked room mysteries.

Socko’s First Case by Tim Arnot is, above all else, a locked room mystery. The king’s gold has gone missing, stolen out from under its guards’ noses. The room it was in, obviously, was locked with no way in or out. You know the drill with these things. The Kingsman Special Investigation unit is on it, with a seventeen-year-old doing most of the heavy lifting. Continue reading…

The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber by Ernest Hemingway

Of course we would start with Hemingway, and of course it would be with Francis Macomber. It couldn’t be any other way, really. The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber was the first short story I ever read. That isn’t true. There plenty of times I was forced to read condensed classics, abridged into easily digestible morsels. Those public middle school mistakes made me distrustful of shorter works because they often were insulting. My opinion at fifteen was short fiction was for chumps.

When I think of my evolution as both a reader and as a writer, my introduction to Hemingway was an important milestone. Important enough that I can remember it eleven years later. Francis Macomber was the first short story that challenged me and revealed all that could be possible in just a few quick pages. It started a love affair with brevity that is still running its course. Continue reading…