by Michael M Jones
For this installment of Schrödinger's Bookshelf, I thought I'd take a look at a few of the wonderful themed anthologies which
have been piling up on my desk. It's not just coincidence that all of the ones reviewed are from the same
publisher. DAW has been great about releasing an anthology just about every month to help feed the addiction of short fiction
aficionados like myself. Now, while material and tone may vary, most of them do share the same basic defining
characteristic: all of the stories collected within relate to a single theme.
[Editor's Note: Here you will find the other Schrödinger's Bookshelf columns.]
What happens when the magic rests in the hands of children, and the power of life and death is held by those too young or inexperienced to know the right path? That's what these eighteen authors try to puzzle out.
In Tanya Huff's "After School Specials," the constantly-bickering daughters of a movie mogul deal with one another, a school bully, and a mysterious magical menace. In "Starchild Wondersmith" by Louise Marley, the child of a magical family struggles to discover his true Talent, even as he adjusts to going to school with "Normal" people. In "The Weight of Wishes" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman, two parents must deal with the awesome power their daughter holds, and figure out how it relates to their own hidden magic. Sarah Hoyt's "Titan" follows a young man named Leonardo, whose encounter with primordial beings transforms his destiny forever.
This collection really does range across the spectrum of possibility, with stories set in history and modern day, and
more than a few original fantasy settings. With strong offerings by authors including Jane Lindskold, Jean Rabe, Michelle
West, Anan Dean Foster, Jody Lynn Nye, Jana Paniccia and more, it has certainly got a lot to offer readers.
Mythology and fantasy are full of "bad girls," as suggested by the title of this collection. Everyone has their favorite or most feared, from the Greek Harpies to the apocryphal Lilith, from Cinderella's wicked stepmother to the Gaelic Black Annis. They're victims and persecutors, mothers and daughters, nightmares and legends, and at long last, it's time they got to tell their side of the story. Or, in some cases, their story is told by those unlucky enough to cross their paths.
In "Shall We Dance?" the tale is recounted of a so-called alpha male who runs afoul of the quintessential female predator. In Leslie Claire Walker's "Time and Memory," a Queen of Faerie plays out a familiar story involving a mortal named Thomas yet again. Allan Rouselle takes another look at the Greek Sirens in "Band of Sisters," while Greg Beatty manages to find both pity and purpose for a different Greek monstress, Echidna, also known as the "Mother of Monsters." Lilith, of course, is present in Peter Orullian's "Lilith," and Annie Reed catches up with a destitute Hera wandering the mean streets of the modern world in "Homeless."
Christina F. York retells the Cinderella story from the viewpoint of the stepmother, suggesting that history really is written by the victors and not all bad guys are what you'd expect, in "Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth." Scott William Carter gives us a wonderfully poignant tale of Medusa in "Heart of Stone," and Michael Hiebert overturns the entire concept of the Tooth Fairy in the simply-titled "Dust."
Whether the stories look at the Harpies or the Furies, Hera or Isis, Norse or Celtic mythology or even original
characters, they all manage to deliver solid tales. It's interesting how many of the authors chose to portray their
protagonists either as victims of their power/curse or as supernatural beings much diminished by the progress of
centuries and the advent of modern time. Redemption also features heavily in a few of the stories. Of course, for
all those, there are still a few cases where our heroine remains unrepentant, undiminished, and unyielding. Altogether,
this is an enjoyable collection that give the reader plenty to think about.
Michael M Jones enjoys an addiction to books, for which he's glad there is no cure. He lives with his very patient wife (who doesn't complain about books taking over the house... much), eight cats, and a large plaster penguin that once tasted blood and enjoyed it. A prophecy states that when Michael finishes reading everything on his list, he'll finally die. He aims to be immortal.
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