March 19, 2005

New Magics ed. by Patrick Nielsen Hayden

person with a winged snake perched in zir backpackShortly after reading Patrick Nielsen Hayden's excellent New Skies I found out somehow that he had edited a similar volume of young adult stories leaning more toward the fantasy end of the sf spectrum. It's been a while now since I read it, but I like having more time between read and review for short story anthologies.

Neil Gaiman leads off the collection with "Chivalry" which has a fabulous first sentence: "Mrs. Whitaker found the Holy Grail; it was under a fur coat." Gaiman delivers nicely on that setup.

I'd already read Ellen Kushner's "Charis" in one of Terri Windling's Borderland books. It's a great distillation of the coming of age story uniquely suited to the Borderland setting where Faerie intrudes into modern midwest North America.

"Jo's Hair" by Susan Palwick, as the title implies follows Jo March's hair from the point where she cut it all off in Little Women through the life of adventure and non-conformism that Jo herself could have lived had she not chosen the path she did.

In "Not All Wolves," Harry Turtledove examines human bigotry through the eyes of a young werewolf in 12th century Cologne.

Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald contribute "Stealing God," a hard boiled mystery with a Knight Templar protagonist.

"Mama Gone" is Jane Yolen's story of a young girl who has to cope with the fact that her recently deceased mother is a vampire. And she manages to write it without ever once bringing to mind Buffy. Well, maybe once.

Charles de Lint's "The Bone Woman" is another I'd read before. It's set in his fictional city of Newford, and is about the people on the fringes of life in any big city.

"Liza and the Crazy Water Man" by Andy Duncan appeared previously in Nielsen Hayden's Starlight 1. It was nice to read it again here, especially with the resurgence in interest in old time music following the Coen Brothers' Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?. The fantasy element of the story is pretty subtle in this one.

Sherwood Smith looks at stories like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Pamela Dean's Secret Country books from the point of view of the parents of the children who find their way into another world in "Mom and Dad at the Home Front".

Emma Bull writes "A Bird That Whistles" which I could have sworn was in Ellen Kushner's Horns of Elfland, but isn't, so it must have been Double Feature where I read it first. A winsome story of the collision between magic, music, and growing up.

"The Bones of the Earth" is one of Ursula K. le Guin's recent stories returning to the world and characters of The Wizard of Earthsea. I can't write about le Guin without gushing.

The book ends with Orson Scott Card's "Hatrack River" which tells the story of the birth of Alvin Maker. I have been annoyed by some of Card's stories, but there is no arguing that he is a brilliant craftsman of characters and prose. This story had tears running down my face from sadness and joy. How does he do that?

As usual, Patrick Nielsen Hayden delivers the good stuff.

Posted by jeffy at March 19, 2005 02:50 PM