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Lately, I've been reading with an eye to making Hugo nominations, so this batch of short fiction reads is mostly selected from various lists of recommendations.


"The City Born Great," N. K. Jemisin; Tor.com, September 9, 2016
http://www.tor.com/2016/09/28/the-city-born-great/

An urban fantasy - though not the kind we're used to - about the gritty birth and life of the great cities, set in New York. Evocative and filled with a sense of urgency that pulls the reader toward its conclusion.


"This Is Not a Wardobe Door," A. Merc Rustad; Fireside Magazine Issue #29, January 2016
http://www.firesidefiction.com/issue29/chapter/this-is-not-a-wardrobe-door/

A story about imagination and hope and holding on to the magic of childhood when you believed you could change the world. At the end, I was crying.


"Checkerboard Planet," Eleanor Arnason; ClarkesWorld, December 2016
http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/arnason_12_16/

A new Lydia DuLuth talr from Arnason is always a treat. In this novelette, the AIs who control the interstellar stargates have asked Lydia to investigate conditions on a planet with a most peculiar ecology - the entire land mass and parts of the oceans are organised into giant squares, all of similar size, with all the life forms in each square the same colour. The planet has been colonised by a biogenetics corporation which, the AIs fear, is not acting in the best interests of the planet or humanity. An anti-imperialist first contact story with a gentle and at times even whimsical touch.


"Fifty Shades of Grays," Steven Barnes; Lightspeed Magazine, June 2016
http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/fifty-shades-grays/

Carver Kofax is a master at marketing and sales. But when he and his colleague (and romantic interest) Rhonda, land the corporation they work for a lucrative and highly secretive contract, the nature of the campaign demands all their skills - and leads to unexpected and dire consequences for all of humanity. Barnes handles the revelations in the narrative and the protagonist's growing unease with a sure hand. Content warning: this novelette contains sexually explicit kink.


"A Dead Djinn in Cairo," P. Djeli Clark; tor.com, May 18, 2016
http://www.tor.com/2016/05/18/a-dead-djinn-in-cairo/

In an alternate pre-WWI Cairo, where djinn and angels from other dimensions mingle with humans, Special Inspector Fatma el-Sha’arawi of the Egyptian Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities investigates the apparent suicide of a djinn, only to discover a mad plot to destroy humanity. Will the dapper young inspector solve the mystery in time? Clark's novelette is a delighful genre-bending fantasy thriller with a touch of steampunk. Cairo comes to life in complex and sensual detail, and Fatma is a character I'd love to see again.


"The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight," E. Lily Yu, Uncanny Magazine, Sept-Oct 2016
http://uncannymagazine.com/article/witch-orion-waste-boy-knight/

A relatively young and inexperienced witch decides to accompany a young knight errant seeking dragons to kill, and learns a few bitter lessons about honor, trust and pride.


"The Green Knight’s Wife," Kat Howard; Uncanny Magazine, November 2016
http://uncannymagazine.com/article/green-knights-wife/

A compelling riff on the Arthurian tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, told from the perspective of the Green Knight's wife, in which one of those women who is always on the sidelines in such hero tales, treated as merely part of the mythic machinery, takes up agency and acts for herself.


"Foxfire, Foxfire," Yoon Ha Lee; Beneath Ceaseless Skies, March 3, 2016
http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.com/stories/foxfire-foxfire/

A novelette blending fantasy and sf, set in a Asian- derived alternate universe where loyalists and rebels do battle with giant powered mechas. A young spirit fox with a great desire to become human - which he can only achieve by killing and eating 100 humans - is faced with difficult choices when captured by a mecha pilot. A story about transformations, and finding one's self.


"Unauthorized Access," An Owomoyela; Lightspeed Magazine, September 2016
http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/unauthorized-access/

You would think a high profile hacker who's already spent time in prison for releasing government information that there was no reason to hide would be seriously radicalised - but for Aedo Leung, getting out of jail is only the beginning. A cautionary tale about the sequestration of public information that has suddenly become even more timely and appropriate.

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Finally, there is a collection of Eleanor Arnason's short fiction set among the alien Hwarhath, appropriately titled Hwarhath Stories: Transgressive Tales by Aliens. What makes the collection even more delightful to read is that Arnason has framed it as an anthropological investigation of Hwarhath culture and the response of the Hwarhath to contact with humans through their stories, and has fleshed out the volume with scholarly analyses of what these tales tell us about the Hwarhath.

As the Introduction, supposedly written by Rosa Haj of the Independent Scholars Union, explains:

"As far as can be determined, the stories in this collection were all written after the hwarhath learned enough about humanity to realize how similar (and different) we are. Our existence has called into question many ideas about life and morality that most hwarhath would have called certain a century ago. With two exceptions, the stories don’t deal with humanity directly. Instead, the authors are looking at their own culture through lenses created by their knowledge of us. Reading this fiction, we can begin to learn about our neighbors in known space. We may even learn something about ourselves."

I had read most of the stories collected here at one tine or another, but it was most enjoyable to read them again, and to savour the ones I had missed until now. And to ponder the ways in which transgressions both change and preserve societies.

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Karen Tidbeck, Jagannath

I was completely enthralled by this collection of short stories by Karin Tidbeck, translated from Swedish by the author herself. These are, for the most part, stories that inhabit the space between fantasy, science fiction and horror often refered to as weird fiction. Short-listed for the Tiptree award, many of the stories are told from the viewpoint of women, and deal, in one way or another, with variations on the themes of inheritance, bloodlines, reproduction. Tidbeck's brilliantly written tales are unsettling, disturbing, and rarely give the reader a clearly defined and closed off ending. Instead, she invites the reader to carefully consider the situation she presents, and come to their own conclusions about what happened, or will happen next.


Octavia Butler, Unexpected Stories

Octavia Butler died eight years ago. That voice of true genius was stilled. But sometimes the universe gives us an unexpected note of grace - or in this case, two notes, two early, previously unpublished stories by Butler, found among her papers by her agent and literary executor.

In these stories - A Necessary Being and Childfinder - Butler speaks to us again, about power and difference and finding solutions - but not always satisfactory ones - to the ways such thing divide and harm us. It was both sad and marvelous to read new words from Octavia Butler.


Eleanor Arrnason, Big Mama Stories

Arnason's Big Mamas are the stuff of folk tales - marvellous creatures who span space and time by their whim and will, who have the kind of adventures that gods and folk-heroes have, meeting all kinds of incredible situations with confidence and wit - Big Mamas who enjoy the occasional company of Big Poppas, but don't need them. This wonderful collection of Big Mama stories, published by Aqueduct Press, is sheer delight to read. As Karin L. Kross notes in her review of this collection on Tor.com,
Arnason’s Big Mama mythos is a highly enjoyable and strongly feminist synthesis of science, history, and sheer imagination. Like the best fairy tales and folk tales, her stories sometimes go to dark and unsettling places, but they’re really about how to overcome the darkness—how to take a long view of the universe, where individual lives are at once very small but also very important and precious.



Eugie Foster, Mortal Clay, Stone Heart and Other Stories in Shades of Black and White

It's not often that you find a collection or anthology where every single story is a gem, but that's exactly what this was. Foster writes stories that are both technically sound and emotionally powerful. Her genre choices range from straight-up fantasy to something akin to magic realism, so I urge anyone who enjoys short fiction of that kind to check out her work.

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Eleanor Arnason, Moby Quilt (novella)

A Lydia Duluth novella, thoughtful, as Arnason always is, but also funny. Well wprth reading.


Kage Baker, Empress of Mars (novella)

Taking place in Baker's Company universe, although not a Company story, it's one of those 'ornery Martian settlers outwit the authorities' tales, and it's quite good.


Ken MacLeod, Intrusion

MacLeod is very, very good at exploring various kinds of fascist states. In this case, he gives us a dark and satirical look at world in which women are defined primarily as childbearers who must be overseen by the state to ensure that they do nothing that might endanger their children, even if that means heavily restricting the freedoms of all women to manage their own lives. Thought-provoking as always.


Keith Roberts, Pavanne

Classic work of alternate history in which Queen Elizabeth I was assassinated and Roman Catholicism retained its stranglehold over European politics, culture and innovation. In a series of linked novellas, Roberts introduces us to a mid-20th century England still in a state of feudalism, controlled by the Church, and relying on steam-powered technology. But even though it is long delayed (as measured by our own timeline), change begins to force its way into this rigidly structured world.


Maureen McHugh, Nekropolis

McHugh is always worth reading. This novel tackles such varied elements as life in a repressive fundanentalist theocracy, the rights of artificially constructed people, the ethics of love when people can be programmed, chemically or genetically, to want to please others, and the experience of being a refugee trying to adapt to a strange new culture.


Terry Bisson, Fire on the Mountain

Another alternate history - the fracture point here is John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry, which succeeds and sparks a revolution leading eventually to a socialist nation called Nova Africa in the former southern states. Great reading.

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Steve Perry, The Musashi Flex

After re-reading all of the Matador series books published back in the 1980s and 90s, I discovered that Perry had returned to the Matador universe and had written a prequel that harkened back to the origins of the fighting style used by the Matadors in their revolution. I am pleased to report that the first of the prequels was just as good as the original series. I understand from Wiki that two more prequels are in progress, and I’m waiting for them eagerly.


Linda Evans, Far Side of Darkness

This is a well written and rather enjoyable book. There’s a conspiracy involving scientists and the military and a few other assorted people who want the world to be run their way. There’s a co-opted top secret government project involving time travel. And there’s a group of ordinary people caught up in all of this, accidentally sent through time, who eventually manage to come together and start to figure out what is going on and realise they may be the only ones who can stop it.

But I cannot recommend it, because the book ends on a cliffhanger, with no resolution at all. It was clearly intended as the first half of a tightly-connected duology, and given that it was originally published in 1996, it seems unlikely that the second half will ever be available. So, as things stand, don’t buy it – you will find yourself with a severe case of reading interruptus. That said, if the sequel is ever published – grab both volumes and go for it.


Eleanor Arnason, Tomb of the Fathers
Eleanor Arnason, Mammoths of the Great Plains

Eleanor Arnason is brilliant. She thinks deeply and honestly about things like gender, class, race, colonialism and imperialism, and how they affect her characters and the stories she wants to tell. And then she folds these important considerations into fascinating tales with interesting and multi-dimensional characters. She writes with wit and grace. Her work is thought-provoking and satisfying. I was going to say something about the two Arnason books I read last year, but then I discovered a review by Kelly Jennings at Strange Horizons that says much of what I would have said abut them, so I will direct you there instead:
http://www.strangehorizons.com/reviews/2010/08/mammoths_of_the.shtml


Lyda Morehouse, Resurrection Code

For those who know Morehouse’s AngeLINK series – this is a must-read. Mouse and Morningstar. Prequel and sequel. Betrayal and redemption. Cyberpunk and angels. Gender fluidity. Prophecy and portent. Everything that Morehouse does so well. For those who do not know the world of AngeLINK – this is probably not the place to begin, but I urge you to try your hardest to find Morehouse’s four previous AngeLINK novels (sadly out of print) and read them. I’ve never been able to understand why these books, which are full of amazing characters, provocative ideas about mind and soul and sex and technology, and complex and satisfying storytelling – all that science fiction at its best is about – have failed to find a wider market. Perhaps it is the moral (and gender) ambiguity of some of the characters – but Morehouse knows that all beings are complex, and contain multitudes and contradictions. If you haven’t figured out by now, I love Morehouse’s work in this series. She has written other books that are a joy to read – under the name Tate Hallaway – but this series truly is her masterwork. And it really should be in print again.

For those who are interested, here is a link to a review of Resurrection Code by Russ Allbery (where you can also find links to his reviews of the other AngeLINK books). http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/reviews/books/1-935234-09-9.html



Elizabeth Moon, Hunting Party

While I do enjoy some milsf, I tend not to read it as often as I do fantasy, whether high or otherwise. So even though I love Moon’s high fantasy, I had never really made reading her milsf a high priority. However, after finishing the new volumes in the Paladin’s Legacy fantasy series, I found that I wanted more Moon – so I decided to try this, the first volume of volume in her Familias Regnant milsf series. And enjoyed it. The things that I enjoy so much in Moon’s fantasy are there in her sf too – strong female characters, well-paced stories with political intrigue. I intend to read more.


Nick Harkaway, The Gone-Away World

A darkly satirical post-apocalyptic action-adventure comedy which poses serious questions concerning the nature of reality and identity, Harkaway’s first novel is perhaps a bit excessive, but has moments of sheer genius and more than enough energy to pull the reader through the rough spots. To say nothing of the question that is likely in the back of every reader’s mind – what the fuck will he do next? I really can’t easily describe it – just check it out for yourself.

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Ordinary People, Eleanor Arnason

Ordinary People is a collection of six of Arnason’s short stories, one poem and a speech made as Guest of Honor at the 2004 WisCon. The collection begins with the poem “The land of Everyday People,” dedicated to John Lennon. I think he would have liked it. I know I did. An everyday hero is something to be.

And the stories in this collection are indeed about ordinary people going about their lives. They love, they work, they deal with family issues and concerns with their emotions, and hopes and discontents. Three of the stories feature stories and legends of the Hwarhath, the non-human race explored more extensively in Arnason's novel Ring of Swords, and it is, as always, a delight to learn more about this complex culture Arnason has created.

Included in this collection is the wonderful short story “The Grammarian’s Five Daughters” in which the nature and uses of the various parts of speech – nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and prepositions – illuminate some very important truths about language and life, and many fairy tale clichés are gently but firmly put in their place.

Closing the collection is the transcript of a speech, “Writing Science Fiction during the Third World War.” Arnason raises for consideration a number of observations about war, globalisation, nation states, and resistance. In the midst of her comments, she has this to say about science fiction today:
We are living in an age of revolution and a science fiction disaster novel. No, we are living in several science fiction disaster novels at once. The stakes are high. Human civilisation may be at risk. The solutions are going to require science and technology, as well as social and political struggle.

What are we – as science fiction readers and writers – doing about this? Historically, science fiction has been about big problems, use and misuse of technology, the broads sweep of history, and every kind of change. Historically, it has been a cautionary and visionary art form. Are we continuing this tradition? Are we writing books that accurately reflect our current amazing and horrifying age? Are we talking about the kind of future we want to see and how to create it?

Or are we, in the immoral words of the preacher in Blazing Saddles, just jerking off?


Arnason is, I think, one of our great science fiction writers, to be spoken of in the same breath as Ursula LeGuin. If you have not yet encountered her work, this is an excellent volume to begin with. (Available through Aqueduct Press)

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The Wyrdsmiths are, according to their blog profile, “a group of pro and semi-pro writers in Minneapolis & St. Paul, MN, with over 20 novels and 100 short stories published, collectively. The Wyrdsmiths blog on writing, publishing, and genre, particularly Science Fiction and Fantasy.”

I found the group’s website because two of my favourite authors (out of, admittedly, a longish list of favourite authors), Eleanor Arnason and Lyda Morehouse, are members of Wyrdsmiths. And once I knew the this writers' collective had published both a chapbook and a full anthology of short stories by its members, and that each of these collections contained stories by both Arnason and Morehouse, well, I simply had to get them.

Tales from the Black Dog: A Wyrdsmiths Chapbook (ed.) William G. Henry
New Wyrd: A Wyrdsmiths Anthology (ed.) William G. Henry
(There's a link on the website to order New Wyrd; email wyrdsmiths@gmail.com to order Tales from the Black Dog)

Both collections were a real delight for me. It was one of those exciting moments when you buy an anthology because you know there are one or two stories in it from authors whose work you expect to enjoy, and find out that every single piece speaks to you on some level.

The two books arrived at the same time, and I read them both one after the other, so instead of discussing the stories in the two collections separately, I’m combining both in one – because I assure you, you will want to read them both. Works from Tales from the Black Dog are indicated with TFBD, and those from New Wyrd with NW. Both contain a mixture of stand-alone short stories (even though these may be part of a series, or set in a universe shared with other works by that author) and excerpts from larger works in progress or seeking publication.


The Short Stories

“The Ballad of the Pterodactyl Rose” (TFBD), by H. Courrages LeBlanc
This is a light, lyrically written, and very funny space pirate story. Just perfect for every girl or boy who ever wanted to be a pirate, and since that describes me to the core, I loved it.

“How Many Horses” (NW), by H. Courrages LeBlanc
A more serious and thoughtful piece, this story, like most fairy tales, this examines some universal truths – in this case, truths about power, corruption, and the human heart – in the guise of a simple story of magic. LeBlanc has a real gift for the language and rhythms of ritual story-telling, which is displayed very effectively and very differently in the two stories in these collections.

“Tutivillus” (TFBD), by Lyda Morehouse
One of the things that I love about Morehouse’s work is that she tackles issues ingrained in our culture by centuries of religious tradition, head-on. Often science fiction writers tend to shy away from issues arising from the real history of human spirituality and religion, while fantasy writers tend to approach these issues from the side, creating new religions that may showcase similar ideas, but lack the punch of the names and symbols we all grew up with. This stories takes all the traditional imagery of demons, sin and salvation, and gives us an evocative, moving characterisation of redemption in a way that completely inhabits and at the same time transcends traditional Christian/Catholic themes. I cried at the end. Literally.

“Jawbone of An Ass” (NW), by Lyda Morehouse
Morehouse describes this story as “a modern retelling of the story of Samson’s first wife, who slowly comes to realise the horror of knowing that she, through no fault of her own, is on the wrong side of the wrath of angels.” The history of religion is full of praise for heroes doing God’s will – but aren’t those who oppose them doing God’s will as well? Who weeps for them? This story also seems to be at a deeper level, about what religious conflicts look like from the inside, to those who believe that they really are doing the will of a god, and who believe in the necessity of martyrs, the manipulation of people into their divinely appointed roles, the impossibility of negotiation or compromise, that leads to the unending escalation on all sides.

“Shatter” (TFBD), by Kelly McCullough
This is a very strong story of grieving, guilt and personal responsibility. At the same time, it is a wonderful and original take on the standard urban fantasy where unearthly creatures lurk in alleyways and shopping malls: if the Fae are the creatures of hills and forests, why would you expect find them in cities – and once you realise that you wouldn’t, then what kind of power would you find instead? McCullogh notes that this is a story set in a universe he is returning to, and I can hardly wait to see the development of this new urban mythology.

“The Basilisk Hunter” (NW), by Kelly McCullough
This is the truly funny sequel to McCullough’s “When Jabberwocks Attack” (available online as part of the Wyrdsmiths contributions to International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day) about an unfortunate young classics student who falls under the spell of wizard turned entertainment impresario Merlin (yes, that Merlin. In his The Sword and the Stone incarnation, more or less).

“Spirit Stone” (TFBD), by Naomi Kritzer
This story, set among a semi-nomadic desert folk in a post-Mage Wars setting, where unknown and possibly dangerous objects from times long past lie in wait for the unwary, is a powerful parable about the nature and uses of power. At the same time, it raises questions about the assumptions that we may have about how best to provide freedom to those we believe to be in need of our help. Enjoyable as a simple fantasy, but with thought-provoking depths.

“Masks” (NW), by Naomi Kritzer
Set in the world of her earlier novels, Fires of the Faithful and Turning the Storm (which I have not yet read but now feel I must rapidly acquire and consume), this is a story about a young man who discovers the depths of betrayal that can be reached when it is necessary for otherwise decent people conceal and even deny what and who they really are in order to fit in to their society and perform their calling in life.

“Maelstrom” (TFBD), by Sean M. Murphy
The first in a proposed series of works to be set in the same universe under the name The Mendarin Evolution, this is a stand-alone “origins” story that definitely leaves one wanting to know where it goes from here. Looking at a not uncommon science fiction premise – some kind of alien influence or symbiosis that heightened humans’ mental abilities to the point where there is a kind of networking, linking or even uniting of all affected minds, the story explores some of the not-always-considered implications and consequences of the situation. Murphy’s notes about the story indicate that he will be continuing to investigate what this kind of change means in terms of the development, even the evolution, of his characters, and I’m very much looking forward to finding out where he’s taking them.

“Cloverleaf One” (NW), by Sean M. Murphy
This is a relatively light and humorous piece, though with some harrowing moments and some very interesting overtones. Set in a situation that’s all too familiar to the academics among us – the incomprehensible, unfathomable and seemingly ridiculous if not outright impossible demands of one’s thesis supervisor – this is tale of a apprentice, er, graduate student about to discover the existence of a modern alchemical brotherhood and the secrets known only to its initiates. It presents the ancient tradition of magical mastery known only to the workers of such crafts as smithing or masonry in a modern and science-fictional setting, and makes us think twice about whether there is more than one reason why things are made the way they are.

“Mammoths of the Great Plains” (TFBD), by Eleanor Arnason
Although intended as part of a larger work, this piece stands alone, so I’m including it as one of the short stories rather than one of the excerpts. This is rich work, with so many interwoven strands: respect for nature, preservation of ancient wisdoms, the need for living in harmony, the utter necessity of sensible ecological planning and conservation, the importance of storytelling as a means of conveying truths. Arnason is, to me, in much the same class of writers as Ursula K. LeGuin – her works resonate on so many levels of thought, the personal, the political, the historical, the ecological in the broadest sense, as well as being wonderful entertainments in their own right.

“Big Black Mama and Tentacle Man” (NW), Eleanor Arnason
This is just hilarious. Feminist to the core, it’s the best antidote ever created for a surfeit of hentai and overwhelming male privilege. Oh, it’s got all that other stuff I mentioned above in it, too, but you have to read carefully or you might laugh so hard you miss it the first time. Spend a few minutes savouring the introductory section before you get into the fun and you’ll see what I’m talking about.


The Excerpts

It’s harder to give a thumbnail review of an excerpt from a larger work, because you don’t always get much more than a glimpse of some key characters and themes – even though, naturally, the author is going to pick a selection that she or he hopes will both showcase and intrigue. I do know that of the three books excerpted in the collections, I’m going to want to read all of them.

From The Commission by Willian G. Henry
“Laila Ahara” (TFBD)
Here we are given a brief introduction to a potentially interesting heroine as a young girl, with a look at what one anticipates will be one of the formative periods of her youth..

“Bird of Fire” (NW)
an introduction to another female character, who appears to have had significant dealings with the Lalia Ahara’s father, and a look at an adolescent or young adult Laila herself, from that character’s viewpoint.

The writing and characterisations in both these excerpts are good. These excerpts sell the characters more than they sell the story, in that I still have little sense of what is going on or where these characters might be headed. Even so, I’m very interested in finding that out and I hope that it’s somewhere I want to follow them to.


From Kyria Zulie by Rosalind Nelson
“A Candle For the Dead” (TFBD)

This gives the reader an introduction to what would appear to be the main character of the novel, a warrior/soldier/guard of honour named Iltani. We learn something about who she is, the kind of society she lives in, and one of the issues that drives her – remorse or guilt, or perhaps fear of a haunting by the dead. There are indications of a strongly developed religious system in the novel, which is something I always find interesting. Plus, as I said, woman warrior.

“A Game of Beasts” (NW)
Another brief and intriguing glimpse of the novel’s heroine, Iltani, and of her quest and the world she lives in. Political intrigue seems to be coming into the mix, which is also something I enjoy in an sf novel. I hope someone hurries up and publishes this.


From Dust and Steel by Douglas Hulick
“An Inconvenient Corpse” (NW)
This looks to be an interesting fantasy with an ambiguous hero – think of a mob enforcer, but in one of the classic fantasy environments of deserts and tradetowns. I’d swear that if I turned the corner and looked down the next street over from the one where this novel’s action is happening, someone like the Grey Mouser or maybe Terazin the thief would by up to his or her neck in something not quite on the right side of the law. And that’s a kind of universe I like to read about.

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One of the most interesting "early alien contact" novels, and one of the most thought-provoking representations of an alien culture, I've read in a long time. With her aliens, the Hwarhath, Arnason creates a culture based on a very different set of relationships between gender, sex, reproduction, power and violence than those that exist in modern human culture (though there are some historical and non-human parallels - I found myself thinking of both Spartans and elephants), and makes the reader think seriously about the implications.

Ursula LeGuin, herself no stranger to thought-provoking representations of alien cultures and sexualities, wrote this about Arnason's Ring of Swords (in the Wiscon 20 Program Book):

Both the narrators of this book use an understated, slightly self-mocking, casual tone which may lead the reader to take the story lightly. It is not a lightweight story. It is intellectually, emotionally, and ethically complex and powerful. A great deal of it is told by implication only, and so the moral solidity of the book and its symbolic and aesthetic effectiveness may pass a careless reader right by. The characters are mature, thoughtful, imperfect people, the settings are vivid, the drama is tense, and the science-fictional reinvention of gender roles is as successful as any I have ever read.

The only problem is that Arnason's other writings about the Hwarhath are a series of short stories, published in a number of magazines, and it's going to be rather difficult getting my greedy little paws on them all. Fortunately, three of them have apparently been reprinted in a collection of Arnason's short fiction just out from Aqueduct Press, entitled Ordinary People. That's a starting point.

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