Sorry I am late! The 50th issue of the Uncanny Magazine was published in january.
I read the review in the Locus and read most of it in may. Which was cool, as I attended a convention (MetropolCon in Berlin), where Mary Robinette Kowal was one of the guests and she has the Story Cold Relations in this issue, which I read on the train to Berlin.
Having read only the Lady-from-Mars books (and a noveleta) so fair,this was my first fantasy story of Kowal.
There are some interesting essays at the end of the Magazine, which I don't review here and an interesting piece of prose co-authored by Ken Liu, which went a little bit over my head. that's why I am so silent about it. Ken Liu is the author who brought me to Science Fiction in the first place, so I am a big fan.
So, here are my highlights:
Cold relations by Mary Robinette Kowal
Cold Relations is a lot about family and a sister-brother-relation, which I like. It's also about ghosts and magic and politics.
Claudette earns money by consuming ghosts, which will be a moral issue later in the short story. Her brother Rupert has a new job, which has a moral impact as well.
I like how Kowal describes people. Let's meet Rupert:
"Rupert's face was lean and angular to the point of gauntness. He had the square jaw and cheekbones of a model but was so thin that his skin always seemed too tight."
The sister-brother-relationship has a complicated past, which is nicely written and had a big impact on Claudette's life, when he could not pay her back in time and she had to drop out of college. Some things are hinted at early in the story, so that the suspense forces me to read on.
I enjoyed the world building a lot, which focuses a lot on magic and shows me as much as I need to know about the story itself, but is interesting in itself, too.
There's humor in it was well:
"She'd learned from experience that cats would not stay in salt circles."
There's stuff between the lines, foreshadowing, backshadowing (if such a thing even exists) and subtext.
In the end, it's much more about the value of memories and family love as it is about magic, which makes the story one of my favorites in this issue.
Last week, I read the Spare Man and maybe I will not have time for a review, but The Spare man is kind of a space crime novel, which I enjoyed a lot, but I do think I like this short story even more.
Horsewoman by A. M Dellamonica
Ah, that's why I bought Indigo Springs! Afterwards, I did some research and bought a book, because I wanted to explore the prose of this author further.
Payne, the protagonist in thies story, is a trans woman, which becomes clear through dialogue, as some people clearly see her as the woman she is, but a bad policeman does not. Payne works as a palliative nurse and has recently lost loved ones, but in this world, dead people are special. It's forbidden to own boxes of human ash, which Payne very well does three of them and this leads to problems, as the police (or at least they purport to be policemen) begins to gain an interest in her for completely different reasons.
"Human remains weren't the problem. Nobody was sure what the problem was, exactly, but Payne wasn't about to consign Mom or Angie or even her awful roommate JoJo to corporate custody just because someone on the tatters of the Internet thought the bodies of the dead were causing hallucinations."
Payne almost constantly listens to Podcasts, which reminds me of myself, as I am almost constantly listening to audiobooks. (But, my audiobooks never answer.)
The story offers many political ideas next to the main plot, as for example how marginalization plays a role in mortality during a pandemic.
This story is not even pure urban fantasy, there's more than only a little bit science fiction in it, if it's climate fiction or even a dose of apokalypse I do not dare to tell:
"At least Mom had lived and aged and died in a world where the electricity was steady and your car could always get gas and if something was on the grocery shelf last week, it would be there next week too".
There's tragic in the story, the main thing is how Angie died. I enjoyed the reading a lot and am looking forward to Indigo Springs!
One Man's treasure by Sarah Pinsker
And it can get even better still! This was my favorit. I even retold it to my seven-year-old child (it's one of my skills to make fantastic stories - even horror - suitable for children, at least the retelling).
I already knew the prose of Pinsker, I read and reviewed Two Truths and a Lie last year (sorry, German review).
Aden, the main character, has a very good relationship with his partner Nash and that's the first thing we learn, and in such a nice indirect way, which involves me in the story immediately.
Next, we get to learn about Nash, Aden's workmate, who is also introduced nicely and a bit nerdy. The two of them recently lost their friend and third man in the team, Blue, during a difficult task and still mourn them. The "new guy" is Renny and Renny is always late and acts inexperienced, and has to be watched over.
It's bulk trash day. Aden, Nash and Renny have to collect trash from the streets and put it safely away in their vehicle to transport it elsewhere. But the bulk trash is magical and therefore can be dangerous, which is why sometimes people get hurt. Or die, like Blue did.
But this time, the three of them stumble over a statue, which seems to be a petrified gardener. What is the protocol here? And if that's not human, what will Aden and Nash decide?
It a foreign world with magic, but it's also about us. I should not go into that too deeply. It's alienated in this story and that's a good idea. Not my job to translate. Even without the subtext and the hints to us and our real world it's a great story, even a nice Who-dunnit-story in the end. The characters feel authentic and Pinsker describes the relationships very well.
Sometimes I stumble upon a short story of Pinsker I cannot find a way into, but mostly I am a fan of her prose.
A quote from the story:
"Aden hated the Crown: its wastefulness, its carelessness, not to mention no thought for any danger to the trash collectors. Blue had died in another ritzy neighborhood, Silverhill, not this one - Aden and Nash had been given this new route so they wouldn't have to pass the site multiple times a week - but Blue's fall nonetheless replayed in his mind as they made their way down these manicured streets too, and he blinked away tears."
Miz Boudreaux's Last Ride by Christopher Caldwell
Again a cool relationship, and this time much more humor. Auntie Melba's ghost offers a job, which is coming with a nice price: Fifteen more years for one of them. But only one. No sharing possible. What does the protagonist choose and why? And of course this is revealed at the end. I have to ask myself: What would I choose?
The details stuck and made everything real, I can relate to so many things. A trio of three people - the aforementioned couple and a human being that goes by Jack (and not Eulalia any more) are on a mission to end a curse. Are they?
There's some black US-history involved. And a dog! A good story with some original characters.
Bad Doors by John Wiswell
"Jesse had said that Rufus had lost his sense of smell in a car accident. Who knew what he liked about Kosmo's armpit."
Rufus is a dog. This is a classic a-Story/b-story sort of story. On the surface, the story is a phantastic one with a slice of Horror. A door appears in Kosmo's house and he does not think
twice. He sells the house and never looks back. The humor is: He takes no time to wonder, to experiment, to think, he just puts the house on the market, as if this is the only sensible thing to
do when a door appears in your house.
But it does not work. The door haunts him. Wherever he spends time, it appears. He sort of eats his cousin Jesse. Kosmo is adamant to avoid staying at places where a piece of wall is big enough for the door to appear, but he also is worried about his uncle Dahl.
His conflict with uncle Dahl is nicely human and very up-to-date, thinking of all the nonsense that was being spread especially during the pandemic - and, by the way, the story takes place during the height of COVID.
"He'd gotten a dozen Facebook posts every day. Actual colleagues had unfriended Kosmo for being connected to Uncle Dahl. He hated thinking he'd have to sever ties with one of the last people who remembered how his mother's voice had sounded."
A conflict many of us surely can relate to, can we? A great story. That's how I like it.