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ARC Review: Writers of the Future Vol. 36 (Part II)

Picking up where we left off yesterday,

“Making Collaboration Work for You or Co-writing with Larry and Sean” by Sean Williams

Another segment of writing advice, and probably good…but to be frank, it sounds so mercenary to my ears.

I started collaborating with a friend about a year ago. We didn’t plan to launch ourselves at the NY Times Bestseller List. We didn’t quibble about who was right or where we were going.

We were just in it for the adventure.

Maybe later I’ll get more cynical and realize the worth of what he writes, but for now, I’m happy with the flow of words tumbling one over the other.

If I get stuck, I’ll know where to look.

“The Phoenix’s Peace” by Jody Lynn Nye (based on the cover art)

Trigger/Content Warning: cultish religion, romantic relations depicted in some detail.

Confession: I have been wanting to read a Jody Lynn Nye story since the last Writers of the Future volume came out and have not been able to get my hands on one. My public library did not have a single one! What atrocity!

Reading this one…didn’t quite live up to the expectation.

It wasn’t the fact that it featured priestesses in a fantasy cult of an egg. It’s just that I apparently get super irritated when a couple gets into a romantic relationship after only hours of being together.

Really? Why? It just feels like a plot point.

From that perspective, I couldn’t help finding it a more descriptive version of Eragon with a girl and a phoenix (at about 80x speed) instead of a boy and a dragon.

Pity. I was hoping this story would be one of her humorous ones.

Rating: 2/5

“Educational Tapes” by Katie Livingston

Dystopia ahoy! This story had a lot of things going for it. Interesting characters, different form, good solid worldbuilding–the artwork for this one was gorgeous too.

The religion/government structures feels a bit like a weird cultish Christianity, which I’m not fond of. But I think that’s my only complaint.

Definitely a school story more in my style.

Rating: 4/5–excellent, but not quite life-altering.

“Trading Ghosts,” by Mason Matak

Trigger/Content Warning: casual use of religious imagery, clearly implied sexual content.

Again, my pet peeve of existing religion being repackaged for fantasy/sci-fi purposes. Why would someone think it unoffensive to have a nun run a bar complete with prostitutes?

Aside from that, the imagery is quite thorough. I can imagine the gritty world perfectly…even if there is little reason for me to enjoy it.

Rating: 2/5

“Stolen Sky,” by Storm Humbert

This one was quite gorgeous, artwork included. The different interplanetary races were fascinating and the description of each sunset equally beautiful as the artist’s depiction. The Hobbit-sized main character was easy to relate to from the first page. She was so sweet and innocent, yet determined at the same time.

Not to mention the otherworldly song at the beginning–you know that sparked my musician’s imagination!

The plot, however, felt like a faint mirror of “Europe colonizes the world,” repackaged. I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that, but I prefer SF/F to be an imagining of what could be, rather than a reliving of what was. Still worth the read.

Rating: 4/5

“Breaking In,” by Mike Perkins

Trigger/Content Warning: 1 instance strong language

Another essay of advice, this one for illustrators. Charming in its own right, just the same.

“The Winds of Harmattan,” by Nnedi Okorafor

Trigger/Content Warning: sexual imagery

It’s quite fascinating to see a fantasy story with African roots. And this story was researched down to the smallest detail and packed with imagery. I could picture the marketplace and garden perfectly.

The story itself wasn’t quite my style. I was too disappointed after being introduced to flying people that ours never actually got in the sky, instead being locked in a story more about gender and society than fantasy.


Rating: 3/5

“As Able the Air,” by Zack Be

Trigger/Content Warning: sexual imagery

The surprises in this one were quite good–especially the fact that the author didn’t keep anything from the reader. I simply didn’t pick up on things because of my expectations. A good story for AI in warfare and the loneliness of humans.

And so much purple in the illustration! The world needs more purple like this.

Rating: 3/5

“Molting Season,” by Tim Boiteau

Trigger/Content Warning: sexual content

This one was a bit strange for me, but remember, I’m more a high fantasy girl than a H.P. Lovecraft/horror type. Still, a gentleman too polite to know what to do when someone’s broken into his house and is on the couch asleep–that’s quite amusing.

As for the rest of it…well, it felt as if someone were trying to interpret the moody poems everyone writes in junior high (because apparently that is a traumatic experience?) that I read judging contests in the spring. Maybe it really is about a strange dystopian future where skeleton-like creatures book hotel rooms in industrial cities…and maybe we shouldn’t ask too many questions and just give the poet a cookie and some warm milk and ask if they need to talk.

Probably reading into this too much after that poetry contest…

Rating: 2/5–just not my thing.

“Automated Everyman Migrant Theater,” by Sonny Zae

I thought this one was going to be a favorite, theater and Shakespeare and a circus vibe…but it turned out to be just too noisy for my tired brain. I’m sure the allusions to Conneticut Yankee and Death of a Salesman would have amused someone else, but I was lost trying to remember who all the characters were. And being robots (perhaps intentionally), most of their characterization was static and rather flat.

I can honestly say that I’ve never read anything quite like it.

Rating: 2/5

“The Green Tower,” by Katherine Kurtz

This one was more my style, with the familiar high fantasy setting. It felt very good after so much sci-fi in the volume to settle back into a good stone castle. But in the end, it felt more like a coming-of-age story, or political courtly drama, or a history to Katherine Kurtz’s books I haven’t yet read.

It’s so hard to encapsulate all of fantasy in the short form.

Rating: 3/5

Final Conclusion?

I almost always have this reaction to anthologies. Usually there’s one or two I love ( “Borrowed Glory!” “Yellow and Pink!”), and the rest I don’t really care for, regardless of what accolades they’ve gotten. I am one of the world’s pickiest readers.

On the other hand…

The stories I fell in love with were definitely worth the trip. The sense of adventure at the heart of them, the setting stitched so completely into the story, the sweeter romances, the sense of family,

That’s the kind of fantasy and sci-fi I like.

So three huzzahs for the winners, and back to writing with me.

Happy reading!


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