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Summary: Norilana anthologies, 2009

Summary: Norilana anthologies, 2009

Norilana not only published succeeding editions of each of the four anthologies they put out in 2008, they published two standalone books, for a very impressive total of six:

Sword and Sorceress XXIV, edited by Elisabeth Waters;
Lace and Blade 2, edited by Deborah J. Ross;
Warrior Wisewoman 2, edited by Roby James;
Clockwork Phoenix 2, edited by Mike Allen;
Sky Whales and Other Wonders, edited by Vera Nazarian; and
Under the Rose, edited by Dave Hutchinson.

Thus, 6 books, 97 stories (1 novella, 26 novelettes, 70 short stories (4 short-shorts)), about 576,000 words.

Stats: 67.5 stories by women (70%), 23 SF stories (24%) -- both number similar to last year.

As I said last year, these books represent a very nice addition to the anthology market. This year my favorite of the set was Clockwork Phoenix 2, with Sky Whales also quite nice. Lace and Blade wasn't as good as its first year, but had some nice stuff, and Under the Rose was uneven but also had some good stuff. Warrior Wisewoman was also uneven, and I liked Sword and Sorceress more or less as much as I usually do, which is to say I had serious reservations -- and which is also to say that long time fans of the series will probably still like it.

I'll summarize each. First, Sword and Sorceress. I've said before that a book doing pretty much what Marion Zimmer Bradley was doing in the last several anthologies she edited is not entirely a good thing. By the end, in my opinion, Bradley's editorial taste had ossified, and her books featured stories that were too similar in length, theme, and structure. Elisabeth Waters has largely followed MZB's tradition, though she does occasionally publish work more varied in length at least. My favorites this year were Therese Arkenberg's "Lord Shashensa", a nice (though not spectacular) fantasy about a ruler facing a hopeless war and the unexpected help she receives; Dave Smeds's "The Vapors of Crocodile Fen", about the servant of a very long-lived witch who must help her mistress obtain the makings of her immortality serum - unfortunately with the help of a man her mistress can't stand; and K. D. Wentworth's dark "Owl Court", in which a survivor of a brutal raid on her family's village asks for help from her family's "totem" court, the Owl Court -- help that comes at quite a price.

Lace and Blade, and its emphasis on costume fantasy or fantasies of manners or whatever, is producing something I really like in principle. This year the execution, overall, was a bit less impressive than the first volume. But I did quite like Tanith Lee’s "Comfort and Despair", a sly portrait of an apparently mismatched marriage enlivened by certain secrets; and Madeleine E. Robins’s "Writ of Exception", an unexpectedly romantic -- yet practical -- story of a two women forced into marriage -- to each other -- by dynastic needs, and how they navigate the strictures of their culture. I'll also mention work by Sherwood Smith, Traci N. Castleberry, Daniel Fox and Mary Rosenblum.

Warrior Wisewoman is the one primarily SF-oriented book in this set. As I suggested, I found it uneven. But I did like Ian Whates's "Shop Talk", about a new shop opening on a conservative planet, and the one woman who accepts the challenge it offers; and Z. S. Adani's "Beneath the Alien Shield", in which a woman gives the ultimate to prevent an alien takeover of a space station. Kate MacLeod, Catherine Mintz, and Jennifer Povey also contributed good work.

Clockwork Phoenix remains an ambitious and challenging anthology. Two stories really stood out: Gemma Files and Stephen J. Barringer’s "each thing i show you is a piece of my death", about experimental film makers creating a sort of collage film, including what seems a very old clip of a man committing suicide. It’s queasy-making, odd, yet compelling; and Ann Leckie’s "The Endangered Camp",in which the crew of the first spaceship to Mars witnesses an asteroid striking Earth and wonders what to do -- the kicker being, of course, that this crew is dinosaurs. I also liked a nice ultra-romantic tale of a woman of glass by Tanith Lee, "The Pain of Glass", and a moving fairly traditional ghost story from Kelly Barnhill, "Open the Door and the Light Pours Through". Most of the rest of the book was also interesting, and I'll mention in particular Claude Lalumiere, Marie Brennan, and Saladin Ahmed.

From Sky Whales I particularly liked "The Sky Won’t Listen", by Tanith Lee, kind of an SF ghost story, in which a psychic investigator of sorts is engaged to deal with a ghostly "whaling ship" -- of flying whales -- on a distant planet; Sonya Taaffe’s "Stone Song", a deeply lyrical story of a girl called Basilisk, raised to turn things into stone by her voice -- and her reaction to learning that she is to be a weapon; and Mary A. Turzillo’s "The Sugar", about a woman whose calling is to hunt down those who illegally take "sugar" -- a drug that transforms them into fantastical creatures for a day or two -- who learns to ask what "crime" these people are really committing. Lisa Silverthorne and JoSelle Vanderhooft also showed well.

From Under the Rose my favorites were Gaie Sebold's "Eaten Cold",about a couple of long-lived emotional vampires finally meeting an adversary who understands them; Uncle River's "Yeast Virus", a funny tangling of a yeast disaster, fumbling bureaucrats, and a clever family baker with a suddenly valuable sourdough starter; and another involving philosophical exploration from John Grant, "The Beach of the Drowned", a strange sort of afterlife fantasy. Good work also came from James Targett, Stuart Jaffe, William John Watkins, and Donna Scott.
Tags: 2009, anthologies, yearly summaries
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