Anthology Review: Writers of the Future, Volume 33 edited by David Farland

Writers of the Future: Volume 33Writers of the Future: Volume 33 by Anne McCaffrey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This annual competition and anthology never fails to introduce emergent voices in the genres of fantasy and science fiction. The open-to-all format leads to a pleasantly wide diversity. The anthology also always includes a short story written by L. Ron Hubbard and a couple other guests writers. These were far less impressive than the contests winners–as usual.

Five stories stood out for me, all meriting 4 of 5 stars:
“Moonlight One” by Stephen Lawson is a murder mystery set on a moonbase. When the detective is the only other person on the moon, things are interesting . . .
“The Armor Embrace” by Doug C. Souza is a profoundly moving tale about a military man that merged his thoughts and memories with that of the AI in his mech suit. The blurred lines between human and android lead to interesting developments.
“Envoy in the Ice” by Dustin Steinacker is a Lovecraftian tale of a centuries-old alien envoy to Earth plopped down in the Antarctic. After centuries of sitting there, the reasons for the visit remain elusive. But this trip is different . . .
“Useless Magic” by Andrew Peery conveys the generational gap and the loss of traditional lore through the metaphor of magic. The older generations know lots of magic, but the next knows very little and it’s increasingly useless. But yet, it’s no less endearing to share . . .
“The Magnificent Bhajan” by David VonAllmen depicts one man’s aging through his descent from being an able wizard to a mere illusionist living within his memories of former greatness. Pride, wisdom, and self-worth all tug at his grip on reality.

I’ve reviewed and rated all of the included contest winners:
Atkins, Molly Elizabeth–“Obsidian Spire”–3 stars
Hildebrandt, Ziporah–“The Long Dizzy Down”–3 stars
Merilainen, Ville–“The Fox, the Wolf, and the Dove”–3 stars
Roberts, Andrew L.–“Tears for Shülna”–3 stars
Dinjos, Walter–“The Woodcutters’ Deity”–2 stars
Hazlett, Sean–“Adramelech”–2 stars
Kagmi, C. L.–“The Drake Equation”–2 stars
Marley, Jake–“Acquisition”–2 stars
Rose, Anton–“A Glowing Heart”–2 stars

Also included are:
Hubbard, L. Ron–“The Devil’s Rescue”–3 stars
McCaffrey, Todd–“The Dragon Killer’s Daughter”–2 stars
Sawyer, Robert J.–“Gator”–2 stars

I received this new anthology from Netgalley. I previously enjoyed previous years’ Writers of the Future Volume 31 and Writers of the Future Volume 32 also edited by David Farland. Both of the previous anthologies rated 4 stars.
 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “The Fox, the Wolf, and the Dove” by Ville Merilainen

3 of 5 stars.

This is a fantastical folktale in which 3 sisters journey to the world tree in order to bring Spring back in a world of endless winter. They’re guided by a parable etched in stone along the journey that tells of a brave wolf, a clever fox and a little dove that journeyed through winter to the river of the Swan King. Wolf faced the Swan King who stood in the way of the verdant fields beyond. The fox came up with a plan. And the little dove found the acorn that brought forth Spring. But not before the wolf sacrificed herself for the plan to work.

The sisters try to follow the parable as a guide while avoiding the fate of the characters within the parable. They are also armed with the knowledge that their parents died trying to do the same thing. Rose [the wolf] was trained in the ways of the sword by her mother. The narrator [the fox] was trained in the ways of magic by her father. Lily [the dove] was born during the parents attempts to thaw the world tree. They sacrificed themselves so that she might live to try again.

The world tree is protected by wolves that seek to bring down all of the trios making pilgrimage to bring about Spring.

This tale works in its form as a fantastical short story. World building is minimal and narrow-focused. Character building is reduced to the narrowly defined parameters of the parable.

This tale was a quarterly contest winner appearing in Writers of the Future: Volume 33 edited by David Farland.
 
 
 
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Anthology Review: The White Room and Other Stories by Ray Gardener

The White Room and Other StoriesThe White Room and Other Stories by Ray Gardener
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a collection of eighteen vignettes and modern day parables. Few rise to the level of being a true short story in that characters are left undeveloped, backgrounds are unexplored and plots remain overly contrived rather than organic.

Most of the themes revolve around philosophical issues: ethics, the nature of reality and God, and free-will vs determinism. However, repeatedly, they assume their own conclusions without truly offering multiple points of view. Many of the vignettes devolve into an unchallenged Socratic method of one person espousing ideas and another concurring. One-sided philosophical speculations can make for good fodder for stories and novels, but here the ideas remain kernels and are presented unexplored.

Most troubling was the reliance on characters having to narrate how brilliant or clever or devious they were without the actions, thoughts, or dialogue to show it. “Brilliant doctors and professors” would remain without a clear field of expertise which is troubling, as medical doctors are well aware of their specialty and tend to self-identify. The thin character constructions hinder the strengths of the tales and the immersion of the reader.

I received my copy of this collection directly from the author through bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com.
 
 
 
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Review: “When Shadows Fall” by L. Ron Hubbard

3 of 5 stars.

This space parable appearing in the anthology Writers of the Future Volume 31 that showcases new and emerging writers of fantasy and science fiction is included due to the author’s hand in creating the Writers of the Future series. The tale was first published in 1948 and is fascinating, not for its vision of the future, as even when it was written its sci-fi aspect would have been dubious, but rather for its window into immediately post-WWII America in that it shines a light on the relationship between Motherlands and post-colonial lands with regard to what is owed.

Earth has been depleted of food, water, fossil fuels, atomic fuels. The core is cooling. The atmosphere is thinning and nearly deplete of oxygen. The plains are barren and rust red not unlike Mars. For hundreds of years, the 600 off-world post-colonial empires have failed to show to the galactic counsel housed on Mother Earth. Mankind has stretched its lifespan to over a thousand years, but the aged people of Earth have nearly quit breeding, and are now starving.

The parable tells the tale of three simultaneous missions to the outer worlds to secure help and hope for Earth. The first mission is led by Earth’s CFO that had heavily taxed the galactic empires in the past. He begs to borrow on credit from these empires, but to no avail. He returns sick and dying from the ridicule and scorn heaped upon his entreaties. The second mission is led by a former warrior. He is aggressive in his defense of Earth and engages in battles to defend her honor, but receives no help in return. Finally, the third mission is led by Lars who asks for nothing and asserts nothing upon his contact with the empires. Instead, he joins people in tours and drinks and tales of all they have accomplished. In return, he offers old songs and tales and poems of Earth. He returns empty-handed, but not disappointed. And in his wake are the armadas of the empires here to restore the glory of the homeland.

One can imagine that this gives some insight into America’s entry into the European front of WWII. And yet the parable also stands as a cautionary tale toward the use of resources and the environment.

At one point, July 4th is celebrated–not as the day of American Independence, but rather the anniversary of the first mission to the moon that started the entire outward expansion. It’s not a bad guess for a tale published 21 years before Apollo 11 rocketed off to Earth’s barren satellite–on July 16th, 1969.
 
 
 
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