This is the third installment in a series of posts highlighting fantasy short fiction (here are Part I and Part II).
Over the course of the last eight years, I’ve read or listened to a lot of short fiction and the variety out there is astonishing. And I love to try to introduce new readers to some of the stuff that impressed me. This week, the three stories I picked were by Garth Nix, Nancy Hightower, and Daniel Abraham.
“Hereward and Mr Fitz Go To War Again,” by Garth Nix, appeared originally in Jim Baen’s Universe, then in Podcastle (where I heard it), and then in a collection by Subterranean Press (ebook available here). This is one of three Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz stories I heard and I absolutely fell in love with the weird swashbuckling world Nix created.
Hereward is a knight, artillerist, and swordsman, as able with gunpowder as with the blade. Fitz is an animated wooden puppet and dangerous sorcerer, whose sorcery is structured around sewing and knitting, with his accouterments being needles, thread, and sometimes a portable sewing desk. Their job is to enforce a treaty against rogue gods that is so old that some of the nations to the treaty no longer exist.
This is pure buddy picture story, a grand adventures against old gods. Loads of fun and the Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz stories are now available as an ebook, so no reason not to check it out.
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I have gone through phases of reading adventure fantasy, planetary romance, smoke and sorcery and epic fantasy. These sub-genres pack serious power.
Adventure fantasy is an adrenaline hit. Planetary romances like A Princess of Mars are shots of heroic wish fulfillment. And smoke and sorcery wallow in the grit of a spaghetti western.
I also go through phases where I’m looking for the emotional power and the subtle voice and character work of more literary fantasy. I recently read three pieces of short fantasy that hit me hard for different reasons. All are available online for free.
The first was “If You Were My Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky, Apex Magazine, March, 2013. Swirsky’s whimsical voice captivates the reader with a sing-song charm, but subversively so. The very brief story rolls faster and faster down a hill, on its way to a powerful cliff.
Here’s a sample to give you a taste of its romantic, earnest strangeness:
If you were a T-Rex, then I would become a zookeeper so that I could spend all my time with you. I’d bring you raw chickens and live goats. I’d watch the gore shining on your teeth. I’d make my bed on the floor of your cage, in the moist dirt, cushioned by leaves. When you couldn’t sleep, I’d sing you lullabies.
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