Tasting Flight: April 2015
"We'll Be Together Forever" by Joseph Allen Hill (Lightspeed #59)
|Art by Elena Bespalova|
"The Wild Swan" by Anne Bean (Urban Fantasy #6)
A retelling of the Swan Princess fairy tale set in modern times with just as much darkness as the original, "The Wild Swan" by Anne Bean tastes like a Riesling to me, a white wine that's semi-sweet and with a lightness to it, an almost feathery quality that helps it rise up from its fairy tale origins to be something more. The story follows the youngest of the seven brothers, Michael, the one who only got half-converted back to human and lives with an enormous swan wing instead of one of his arms. An outcast from most of the rest of his family because of his arm and because of his being gay, the only one of his siblings he gets along with is his sister, Ellie, similarly outcast because of her guilt that she couldn't completely save all her brothers and because she reminds them all of the curse, what they lost and what they were. A story about family struggle and learning to accept yourself over bowing to the pressures put you by your parents and siblings, the story has a bittersweet ending, a way for Ellie to escape the prison her family is to her and a way for Michael to see that he shouldn't need to hide who he is. It's a powerful if slightly mourning tale of two people deciding that they deserve to be happy in the face of a family that is embarrassed about them. And like a Riesling there is a certain rising feeling to the piece, a lightness that leaves the reader hopeful and refreshed despite a somewhat dry bite.
"Noise Pollution" by Allison Wilgus (Strange Horizons)
With a wry punch and a fast pace and a smooth finish, "Noise Pollution" by Allison Wilgus is a golden IPA, just a little brash and bitter but with a taste that makes it incredibly fun and drinkable. The story introduces a rather shiftless Musical, a woman who can use music to create magic. She's a natural talent, but with that talent comes a certain lack of dependability, a certain arrogance that often puts her at odds with her Choir. Which manifests pretty strongly when she gets out late for an important event and things just keep going wrong. Which comes to a head when, on the street bartering for stolen cassette tapes, she doesn't notice her magical wards fail and she is noticed by the Noise. In a moment of terrifying originality, the story makes the Noise a sort of sentient static that hunts Musicals, that seems to ever be lurking behind the tall buildings of the city. And suddenly in a fight for her life, the main character can only hold her own as her irresponsibility comes back to bite her. Luckily for her, the down-on-his-luck man she was trying to buy stolen tapes from turns out to be a latent Musical, and she manages to instruct him enough to get his help. Together the two push back the Noise in a stunning scene and the story ends with the main character having a new card to play, having managed to discover a new talent for the Choir just in time. This story is full of win, with a nice sarcastic voice that brings to mind the bitterness of an IPA but with a smooth action and pleasant excitement that takes the edge of and makes this story something to read with a smile.
"Every Hand a Winner" by Romie Stott (Farrago's Wainscot #14)
Featuring a spectral deck of cards and a main character just hoping to use it to pull herself out of a bad situation, "Every Hand a Winner" by Romie Stott feels like a rye ale to me, just a bit harsh but with layers of flavor to pull the reader in and a strength that makes the ending a triumph. The frame of the story is that a young woman is giving some sort of interview about her experience with the cards. And so the story is told in her voice, which is fun and a bit wry even in the face of some incredibly events. She simply takes it as a matter of course and when she finds the ghost cards she starts to figure them out. Each card has a different feel, a different aura, and she learns them all as she carries them with her. As once she figures them out, she decides to use them to cheat at cards. Because of course that's what you do. The cards are only visible in low light, though, so she dims the common area of the place she lives, a sort of American hostel, and invites those she thinks have money to spare to play with her. It's not the most ethical of things but it does seem like she's not trying to be mean about it. Like Robin Hood, she's trying to take only what people are able to lose, though when a strange man shows up and wants to play, things begin to get a little out of hand. And it turns out she's being played, as the man turns out to be the original owner of the cards, who might be dead or might be a demon or the Devil itself, because when the narrator sees that she's going to lose it all, she quickly finds a way to get out and still pull out a win. It's great fun but with a struggle to it, a darkness to it, that makes the story a rye ale to me, a deep drink that's still quite fun to kick back and enjoy.
"Silver Buttons All Down His Back" by A.C. Wise (Apex #71)
|Art by Adrian Borda|
"You Can Do It Again" by Michael Ian Bell (Shimmer #24)
|Art by Sandro Castelli|
"Everyone's a Clown" by Caroline M. Yoachim (Unlikely Story #11.5)
With a terrifying premise and a solid emotional core, this story is (of course) a Clown Car, a corruption of the classic Side Car, but instead of two parts brandy, one orange liqueur, and one lemon juice, the Clown Car is two parts cotton candy vodka, one orange liqueur, and one lemon juice. It's a shot to keep you awake at night remembering it, which fits this story where a mother finds that her child has a terrible affliction where she sees that everything has an inner clown. These inner clowns show their emotions on the outside, and generally speaking a world of entirely clowns should scare anyone. Only when the mother decides to embrace this new vision, though, to help her child through the trauma, to make them feel less alone, do things start to improve. Despite the terror that the vision brings the mother, she pushes through it to help her child, to make everything okay. It's a sweet story in a lot of ways, but one cut by the horror and strangeness of a world made entirely of clowns.
"You Are Two Point Three Meters From Your Destination" by Fran Wilde (Uncanny #3)
|Art by Carrie Ann Baade|
"The Kiss" by K.C. Norton (Flash Fiction Online)
|Art by Dario Bijelac|
POSTED BY: Charles, avid reader, reviewer, and sometimes writer of speculative fiction. Contributor to Nerds of a Feather since 2014.