Short Story Review: “Great Light’s Daughters” by Patricia S. Bowne

2 of 5 stars.

Creation myths are often strange tales, if not very strange tales. However, they’re also often a reflection of the culture from which they arise, showing the priorities if not social construction.

This tale is a creation tale for an unexplained culture. A Father Sky style god leaves for an undefined spell while his 7 daughters who are to be spinning clouds into light slack off and cause a bit of mayhem before discovering color and including that into their light. One invents rainbows along the way.

For world building, the strong gender roles in the society are clearly hinted, as is the perception of duty. The lack of consequences for slacking off is a surprise. So, too, is the lack of names for the 7 daughters. One would expect the names to be aspects of light or different minor types of light. The lack of names leaves the daughters nearly indistinguishable as they are called “oldest”, “second oldest”, “second youngest”, and “youngest.” The middle 3 don’t matter apparently.

While creation myths tend to have bizarre elements, and idioms tend to have bizarre turns of phrase [such as “fine as frog’s hair”], this creation myth also contains a quirky, nonsensical idiom in its repeated use of the phrase “fine as hen’s hair.” Repeating an image and action in myths is common, but not the use of idioms. Myths try to explain the unexplained by tying to what is solidly understood–such as what women’s work is. They don’t tie it down to something just as abstract when there are plenty of “fine” materials for comparison.

This tale appears in Abbreviated Epics, a Third Flatiron Anthology, edited by Juliana Rew.
 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “The Blue Cup” by Marissa James

4 of 5 stars.

Certain phrases often get bandied about, such as “needing to grow up,” or “stop living a fantasy.” Most children have an active imagination in a way that adults have often left in their past. This, of course, isn’t true of all adults. Some find that special way to tap back into that unbridled, happy creativity.

This tale hints at a rich, imaginative fantasy world infused with major steampunk elements. However, Joyce isn’t living in a fantasy–she’s washing some very real dishes while her loveless marriage to couch potato Greg stagnates. She mourns the passing of the excitement and love she experienced in the land of Radiance and everything she left behind by choosing to return to earthly reality.

Her memories of bizarre and fascinating creatures and lands open a door that perhaps she thought was forever closed . . .

This tale appears in Abbreviated Epics, a Third Flatiron Anthology, edited by Juliana Rew.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Short Story Review: “Refusing the Call” by Elliotte Rusty Harold

3 of 5 stars.

Lord of the Rings was ground-breaking in its time. From its imaginative world-building to its reconfiguring of cultural mythos. While it didn’t invent The Quest, it brought an ancient trope back to the surface and in a serious way. Since then, many an adventure tale has kicked off with a wizard, a quest, a battle between all that is good and all that is evil.

This humorous vignette spoofs the sudden commonality of the fantasy adventure trope with a quick dose of reality.

“Jonathan Harris, I have come to fetch you on a quest of most urgent importance, for–”

“No.”

The wizard stepped back, his ominous pronouncement momentarily interrupted.

“Excuse me,” he said in a slightly less stentorian tone. “But what do you mean by ‘No’?”

“No means no.”

. . . .

“Did I mention there’s a princess? Quite comely she is too, with hair of golden flax and a face that would launch, well, maybe not a thousand ships, but I’m sure she could manage a rowboat or two.”

“I’m gay.”

This tale appears in Abbreviated Epics, a Third Flatiron Anthology, edited by Juliana Rew.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Short Story Review: “Fortunate Son” by Steve Coate

3 of 5 stars.

The decision to go back to work after being a stay-at-home parent is never a light one. But when that parent is also a young widow working alone to keep the family together, the decision is amply tough. Especially when one is a Viking by trade.

After 12 years of raising Bjorn, Freya is readying herself to go back to work. She hasn’t seen battle since her days as a shield maiden, but this is the route that can secure her son’s future even if it costs her her life. She’ll be the only woman on the ship heading east to the Slavic lands . . .

This tale appears in Abbreviated Epics, a Third Flatiron Anthology, edited by Juliana Rew.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Short Story Review: “Assault on the Summit” by Daniel Coble

4 of 5 stars.

Part of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, the fictional Leng region of Tibet or Nepal had its own esoteric beliefs and cultural practices, perhaps not of human origin. As other writers dive into the world of Lovecraft, Leng has appeared more often–usually a place where explorers, researchers and anthropologists disappear [see Marc Laidlaw’s “Leng”]. It’s often hinted that something alien, or perhaps a fungal-based lifeform dwells on the desolate high Himalayan plains.

While not mentioning Leng by name, this tale shares many key ingredients with Leng mythos. Like Jeff VanderMeer’s “Fragments from the Notes of a Dead Mycologist”, all that is found of the 19th Century adventurer is notes and letters. Professor Charles Polk disappears on the slopes of Mt. Nending in 1871. Letters detailing the probable last days of his life are not found for over 140 years.

In letters to fellow academics and to his wife all back in England, the pompous British adventurer notes his troubles in securing Sherpa guides for his ascent up a mountain rumored to have a temple at the summit. Then two Sherpas stroll into the Sherpa village and offer to take him up. Strangely, the villagers fear the two newcomers and deny that they are Sherpas. Polk starts to witness odd behaviors by his guides. They seem to talk and listen to shiny stone orbs when they think the Brit is out of sight range. Also, food, ropes and other supplies start to vanish in the night . . .

This tale appears in Abbreviated Epics, a Third Flatiron Anthology, edited by Juliana Rew.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Short Story Review: “The Perfection of the Steam-Powered Armour” by Adria Laycraft

4 of 5 stars.

The ideals of peace, especially pervasive in Eastern philosophy, naturally conflict with the Samurai culture and warmongering of many emperors.

In a steampunk version of East Asia, the pressure of a warmongering culture fissures the relationship between a father and his 10 y.o. son. Jin desperately wants to avoid conscription into the emperor’s army as he’s not a warrior. Nor does he want that future life for his son. Jin’s a tinkerer by trade and has struck a deal with a general whereby if he can make the perfect steam-powered battle armor which can turn any man into a warrior by turning a person’s natural flow of energy into deadly movements, then he and his family will be socially elevated to the class of society not drafted.

Failure in this bargain equals death.

When the he arrives, the general puts scrawny son Wen into the suit and forces him to fight his top warrior with Jin coaching from the sidelines. The suit is good, very good. But Wen doesn’t believe any form of violence is the solution, and stays his hand allowing the warrior to pummel him. The general gives Jin and Wen one day to retry the dual . . .

This tale appears in Abbreviated Epics, a Third Flatiron Anthology, edited by Juliana Rew.
 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “Rain Over Lesser Boso” by Gustavo Bondoni

3 of 5 stars.

Attributing natural disasters to supernatural causes is common through many folklores. Here, the cause and effect of a probable volcanic earthquake remains murky but the cultural interpretation of the event contains clues.

After an earthquake ravages ancient Edo, a part of the mainland is found to have broken off. Lesser Boso, now completely surrounded by water, still has people living on it but in a desperate state. Black smoke, seen as restless earth spirits, rise from fissures in the ground on Lesser Boso and many of the inhabitants are psychologically compromised under the influence of the black smoke. The mainland residents consider the entire island cursed and allow little movement between the island and the mainland even though the earth spirits cannot cross water.

Young, intelligent Mariko seems not to be affected by the spirits. She receives the rare chance to become an ambassador for the plight of those left behind on Lesser Boso . . .

This tale appears in Abbreviated Epics, a Third Flatiron Anthology, edited by Juliana Rew.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]