This week for Wyrd and Wonder’s Fantastic Fives we’re all talking about our favourite bitesize fantasies – the short stories and novellas or novelettes that make our hearts beat a little faster and our fingers itch with the desire for magic.
And while I thought this would be the hardest of the Fives to do, it turns out there’s a lot more short fiction on my Love It List than I realised…
‘Crow and Caper, Caper and Crow’ by Margo Lanagan
This beautiful short story tells the tale of a witch travelling across a continent to give her blessing to her new-born grandchild and is written in such a way that magic feels like a very real part of our world. Like you could step outside and encounter or perform magic just as easily as breathing. I fell in love with Lanagan’s writing and imagination on the spot, although this is lighter fare than her two novels, Tender Morsels and The Brides of Rollrock Island, which both explore far darker themes.
‘The Virtue of Unfaithful Translations’ by Minsoo Kang
I love the way this short story is written, in the style of a historical text about a feat of scholarly detection. The discovery at the heart of the tale is about a momentous event called the Peace of Five Peaks Island, a peace manufactured by two translators, Diviner Supreme and Upright Lotus (not her real name). And even better than the story of how they averted certain war, is the commentary on the text by an unnamed character at the end. So, so good.
The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
It’s no secret that I fell for this novella in a big way last year. I love most that the story is told via items left behind at Thriving Fortune, the now abandoned home of the exiled Empress In-yo. Like ‘The Virtue of Unfaithful Translations’ above, this is a story about the other side of history: not the big, official stuff, but the smaller, more emotive events that made up the bigger picture. *happy-sad sigh*
‘Selkie Stories are for Losers’ by Sofia Samatar
This was one of those accidental finds. It’s a story that is a little melancholy and a little funny. In it an unnamed teenage girl explores her feelings about her parents and her best friend and tries to make sense out of her selkie mother’s abandonment of her. Her voice is a perfect blend of cynicism and wounded innocence that makes me want to gather her up and tell her everything will be OK.
(You can read ‘Selkie Stories are for Losers’ here).
The Black God’s Drums by P Djeli Clark
I’d love to crawl into P Djeli Clark’s imagination and live there. This novella is as densely packed as any 500-page novel and presents an utterly absorbing alternative Civil-War-era history of New Orleans. It’s got airships and pirates, two tricksy nuns and a feral child, a terrifying weapon and African gods and goddesses. Creeper, a thirteen-year-old street child, is our guide through this vibrant world and I love her to bits. My fingers are crossed that Clark will be moved to tell more of her story at some point.