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July Short Story Roundup

July Short Story Roundup

oie_1083736EA4SAq7NIt’s that time again, folks. I’m taking a break from my ongoing reread of Glen Cook’s Black Company (6 books down, 4 to go!) to give you an update on the latest heroic fantasy short fiction. First, as usual, there’re the monthly two stories from Curtis Ellett’s Swords and Sorcery Magazine. The other source of stories this July is a collection from Howie Bentley. Most of the stories are reprints I’ve reviewed before, but there are some new things I’ll tell you about.

Issue 77 of Swords and Sorcery Magazine kicks off with “Gina,” the fiery (and bloody) story of a deadly young woman with the ability to control elementals. It’s by Gustavo Bondoni, an author whose work I’ve reviewed in the past. The story kicks off just as Gina is about to be “sacrificed to the fire-demons of Hell’s Gate.” Unfortunately for her captors, just as she steps off the precipice into the volcano’s mouth, they realize she is not the naked and defenseless slave they believe her to be.

Gina looked down again and smiled. She said a few words under her breath. Out loud she said: “Haggan,” and took that final step forward.

She did not fall.

The guard’s footsteps rang out behind her as the man realized that something had gone wrong and rushed towards her to correct it. Not only was he much too late, but he was also running in the wrong direction. Any intelligent person living in a city as infested with magicians as Hell’s Gate would have taken one look at the floating woman and run the other way.

Sadly, dungeon-keepers were not selected for their intelligence. The man kept coming as Gina turned back the way she’d come. A contemptuous flick of her arm brought a tongue of fire from the depths. A gesture sent it towards the rushing defender, who could do nothing but look down at his chest in horror as a searing lance thicker than his arm penetrated his sternum and emerged from his back.

Bondoni packs a lot of back story into this short work, as well as some solid, if not altogether surprising, character development. It successfully walks the line between feeling like something ripped from a longer work and a standalone effort. It manages to feel like an important incident from the larger story of Gina’s life, yet still work as a completely discrete story; something that makes me, as a reader, very happy.

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July Short Story Roundup

July Short Story Roundup

CaptureAs the dog days begin, my mind has been prodded back to swords & sorcery by a few things. The most important one was the the return to the fray of Charles R. Saunders, creator of the heroes Imaro and Doussouye. Just the other day, he announced the start of a new blog, Different Drumming. If you are not familiar with Saunders and his superb body of work, go at once and check out his site.

The next thing, while not exactly S&S, was that I learned the final volume of R. Scott Bakker’s Aspect Emperor series, The Unholy Consult, is about to be published. For all my issues with it, it is one of the few contemporary series that has held my interest past the first book or two.

There have also been some fun discussions among various wags over on Facebook about what a list of good introductory books to the genre would look like. I suspect it won’t be long before I’m lifted entirely from my S&S doldrums and return to reading and reviewing the stuff on a regular basis. Until then, there will still be short story roundups. Like this one.

Swords and Sorcery Magazine #65 provides the publication’s usual two new stories. I like both well enough, but neither qualifies as actual S&S. The definition of “what is swords & sorcery?” has been done to death by divers hands and on numerous stages, but suffice to say there should be action and at least a touch of the dark and macabre. This issue’s two stories contain neither of those things.

Then Will Die Your Pain,” by Tom Crowley, consists of the reflections of Konsler, an aged soldier now serving as the attendant to a knight of unclear pedigree.

Sir Garner isn’t a proper knight, just as I’m not a proper squire. There are no knights where Garner comes from, but everyone in the company calls him Sir. And of course I’m too old to be a squire. The other mercenaries say to me, “You’re gonna die out here, grandpa.” They’re probably right. I just need to finish my job first, and I’m writing this in case I don’t.

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