AndyHat (andyhat) wrote,
AndyHat
andyhat

I had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend this year. My mother and her husband and I went up to Milwaukee (or, more specifically, Pewaukee) for the holiday itself, which we spent with my brother and his wife's family. They served the usual turkey and mashed potatoes and green jello, and it was good.

Friday, there was snow. I love snow.

While it was snowing Friday afternoon, I drove back down to Chicago. That evening was Faust, featuring the young tenor Marcus Haddock. He was excellent. Samuel Ramey was Mephistopheles, and even with a bad cold, he managed to give a good performance.

Saturday night was Siegfried. John Treleaven was sick, so we heard the alternate Mark Lundberg. He did a superb job. David Cangelosi, a frequent singer at Lyric, sung Mime, and he was absolutely stunning. While in Milwaukee, I did get tired of hearing people ask if I meant Siegfried and Roy when I told them I was seeing Siegfried. It's sad that people have heard of a cheesy Vegas casino act, but aren't familiar with one of the greatest works of art ever created.

On the reading side, I once again find myself in the mood for short stories, so I've started in on 2003 stories. Since I'm starting ahead of schedule, I'm just randomly reading whatever I have on hand rather than following my usual list of stories recommended elsewhere. It's been fun so far.

For the moment, I'm trying to keep in the habit of writing a few sentences about each story. Since I'm intending to read more stories over a longer period than in past years, I think it'll be quite useful six months and several hundred stories from now to have notes to remind myself what each story is and what I thought of it. But if you're an author who randomly found my comments in a google search, please remember that these are not deeply considered reviews, but are just my scattered impressions whose primary audience I consider to be myself six months from now. And that should be more than enough disclaimer.

  • Novellas
    • Lackey, Mercedes. "Joust". The Dragon Quintet .
      • Vetch is a serf, suffering under a terrible master on what used to be his family's farm but is now conquered territory. One day, however, he is claimed by a passing dragon rider and trained to become a dragon boy. The plot isn't terribly original, but Vetch is a delightful character, the dragons are fun, and it's all very nicely written.

    • Lee, Tanith. "Love in a Time of Dragons". The Dragon Quintet .
      • Graynne sees a man walking in the woods and falls in love. She plots to escape her indentured servitude as a barmaid/prostitute when the next hero comes to town with noble ambitions to slay the local dragon. This story is lushly written, full of surprising twists, and features a fascinating character in place of the usual one-dimensional lovestruck maiden.

    • Moon, Elizabeth. "Judgment". The Dragon Quintet .
      • Ker is courting the elder Tam's daughter. One day, they come across some mysterious egg-shaped rocks, which Tam cracks, revealing "pretties" inside. Tam gives Ker one bit of rock, which gives him nightmares. When Tam suffers worse nightmares, he accuses Ker of placing a curse on him and Ker and his mother are driven from their village. This is a good story, though the moralizing got to be a bit much for my taste.

  • Novelettes
    • Bick, Ilsa J. "In the Blood". Sci Fiction 4/16/03.
      • Noirish story of a future in which the Washington PD's Homicide and Vice departments take care of contracts, and run prostitution and gambling; and they don't like others moving in on their business. So they're not happy when the special clone (who, of course, has no legal rights) bred to service the Directory of Homeland Security turns up dead, and they didn't do it. Decent but not spectacular satire.

    • Butler, Octavia E. "Amnesty". Sci Fiction 1/22/03.
      • The Communities are an alien race that arrived on earth several decades ago, and settled in impregnable bubbles in the earth's deserts. After abductions and many accidentally imposed deaths, the Communities have finally learned to communicate on a limited basis with humans, but much of humanity still feels extremely hostile towards the aliens, blaming them for the worldwide Depression. Noah is one of the translators who have learned the tactile language used for communications, and "Amnesty" consists of her question-and-answer session with a group of potential new translators, who primarily want the jobs because they need the money. It all makes for an absolutely fascinating backstory, but at the end, after absolutely nothing actually happens plot-wise, I was quite disappointed that it hadn't all been building up to something.

    • Card, Orson Scott. "In the Dragon's House". The Dragon Quintet .
      • Michael lives with his mildly eccentric grandparents in an old house with some sort of secret in the attic. There's a "warm" place on the stairs where Michael can experience dreamlike visions of some other being (a dragon, naturally). It's an excellent story as far as it goes, but according to the introductory note, Card plans to turn it into a novel, which explains the rather rushed and unfulfilling conclusion. I expect the novel to be better.

    • McLaughlin, Mark & Matt Cardin. "A Cherished Place at the Center of His Plans". Hell Is Where the Heart Is .
      • Intense artist sells works to eccentric millionaire Tony Anthony in what turns out to be a faustian bargain in Tony's search for the muse behind all artistic creation. Nice atmosphere, but relatively uninteresting characters and trite plotting.

    • Swanwick, Michael. "King Dragon". The Dragon Quintet .
      • Will witnesses a dragon hoard passing his small town, including the eventual defeat of one of them by a basilisk. A few days later, the dragon wanders into town without its pilot, declares itself King of the town, and chooses Will as its spokesperson. Set in a bizarre world where magic and technology coexist in all sorts of strange combinations (the dragon itself is a mechanical beast apparently animated by a spirit existing in another spiritual realm), this story is your typical Swanwick romp, albeit with a rather dark tinge.

    • Westerfeld, Scott. "Unsportsmanlike Conduct". Sci Fiction 4/9/03.
      • This is a story that turns baseball into the means of achieving first contact with an alien species. I find baseball horribly tedious, so the first half of the story dragged for me. But the second half introduces some neat twists which make all the baseball fetishizing worth it in what turns out to be a rather original version of first contact.

  • Short Stories
    • Barzak, Christopher. "Vanishing Point". Descant #122.
      • Nathan suffered from a new and mysterious disease which caused him to slowly turn transparent and eventually disappear. In "Vanishing Point", his mother recounts her experience tending for Nathan. A rather depressing story, as the situation is entirely hopeless, and his mother never even has the closure of knowing her son is dead. However, I felt like the story tries too hard to establish itself as a metaphor for teenage alienation from their parents, which undermines the impact somewhat.

    • Beatty, Greg. "Midnight at the Ichnologist's Ball". Sci Fiction 1/8/03.
      • Tall tale told over drinks by an "ichnologist", who studies animal tracks. In this case, the tale teller is one Dan Hutton, who studies dinosaur tracks in the Arizona desert and eventually encounters a mysterious connection to the past. Whether Dan believes his story or not (which is left ambiguous), it's a good enough story that he gets the girl in the end. Cute story, but in the end, only slightly above average.

    • Dozois, Gardner. "Fairy Tale". Sci Fiction 1/15/03.
      • Retelling of the Cinderella tale as a perfectly realistic tale, stripped of all fantasy and magic, and recasting the archetypically good and evil characters of the standard version into real people with the common motivations of their day. A surprisingly effective example of the retold fairy tale genre.

    • Emshwiller, Carol. "Boys: A Short Story". Sci Fiction 1/28/03.
      • Two armies occupying the mountains on opposite sides of a valley fight an endless war the causes of which are long forgotten. The women live in the valley and are periodically raided by the men of the armies for copulation and fresh recruits, stolen from their home when they're still young boys. But finally, the women surprise the men by defending themselves, which appears likely to finally end the cycle of violence. This is a well-written story, with a surprisingly likable narrator (a colonel in one of the armies), but I found the background too artificial and implausible to really enjoy it.

    • Evans, S. "The Pineapple Girl". Abyss & Apex 3-4/03.
      • Aso Yaa is the village wise-woman, able to create living magical things from common objects, which disappear when they have completed their purpose. Anele is her stepdaughter, who lives happily assisting Aso Yaa in her work until a Aso Yaa brings home a cantankerous new daughter. A cute story with a very nice surprise ending.

    • Johansen, K. V. "The Inexorable Tide". Descant #122.
      • Nimiane narrates her version of events while King Arthur is away and Mordred and Guenevere try to save te kingdom. Unfortunately, I've never been all that interested in the King Arthur myth, so I could hardly figure out what was going on or why I should care in this story.

    • Keyes, John. "Points of Contact". Descant #122.
      • Dr. Tempo is retiring as Directory of the observatory where he has spent his life searching for answers among the stars. Looking back on his life, he realizes that in his quest to maintain scientific objectivity, he never found any answers and he has lost his ability to believe in anything of which he can't be absolutely certain. The observatory has recently picked up signals of something unusual, possibly signals from other intelligent life, but his only concern is keeping the press away. "Points of Contact" draws a superbly nuanced and believable portrait of the disillusioned yet likable scientist and his tragic and unhappy life.

    • Lake, Jay. "Over the Walls of Eden". Descant #122.
      • Emissary has been sent to an out-of-contact human colony to ascertain what went wrong. When he arrives, he finds that only children willing to talk to him. The children quote Paradise Lost, and speak strangely of being lost to innocence when they become adults. A clever and enjoyable story.

    • Lake, Robert. "I Wear Mourning, Seeing a World of Deceit". Descant #122.
      • A very cute story, told from the vantage point of a painting, a self-portrait presumed to be by Rembrandt, hanging in an obscure gallery with a bunch of attributed to's and from the school of's. The conversations between the paintings are quite funny, and the final question of the narrator's authenticity has a very nice solution. I enjoyed it.

    • Malzberg, Barry N. "The Third Part". Sci Fiction 4/23/03.
      • Eschatological story in which a volcano has mysteriously appeared in a small southern town, leading to lynchings and other violence. The narrator fails to protect two black men from a lynching, though he does stall it long enough to give them a chance to start quoting Revelations. The story itself is as full of inscrutable allusions as Revelations, which is to say, I have no idea what the point is.

    • McHugh, Maureen F. "Frankenstein's Daughter". Sci Fiction 4/2/03.
      • Heavy-handed story about the suffering of a family that has made the decision to clone a daughter killed in a car accident and now must live with the severely developmentally challenged result. Strong characters, and an unflinching portrayal of their situation, but ultimately too strident in its anti-cloning message for my taste.

    • Rogers, Bruce Holland. "The Rower". Descant #122.
      • Very short story about a woman who rows out to sea in the middle of a storm, intending to drown herself, and there meets a man who is the embodiment of God's pain. Only around 1000 words, this story packs in as much plot, philosophy, and characterization as stories many times longer. I liked it.

    • Roscoe, Patrick. "The Seventh Experiment of Senora Lopez". Descant #122.
      • Senora Lopez's daughter has disappeared, presumably falling down the well behind their old house outside their small town. The poor townspeople, desperate for hope, come to venerate the daughter. Gifts are thrown down the well. Bridges hold vigils there. Finally, townspeople begin throwing themselves down the well, believing it's a gateway to some better place. Only Senora Lopez looks to the future, building a mysterious apparatus in her home. An enjoyable story, but with an overly obscure ending.

    • Saunders, George. "The Red Bow". Esquire 9/03.
      • The local dogs have been infected with a disease like rabies, but much faster acting and more contagious. The narrator's daughter was killed, and he and his friends and relatives are now out to prevent any future tragedies. Inevitably, in the name of security, the town enacts a series of ridiculous ordinances forcing the destruction of almost every animal in town and the imprisonment of anyone who stands in the way. An obvious satire on current events and political exploitation of tragedy, but the characters and situation just weren't interesting enough to make it enjoyable.

    • Venema, Marc. "Master Plan; Or, The Art of Tragedy in Relation to Human Morphology". Descant #122.
      • The Samaritans are an alien race that have come to earth and given mankind immortality, unlimited power, and time travel. Of course, they have a hidden agenda involving the remaking of the entire universe more to their satisfaction (they're allergic to just about everything in the current universe), a plan that requires a huge quantity of disruption flux, which can only be accumulated by persuading lesser beings into entering infinite time loops. The science is a bit silly, but it's all played for laughs at the expense of stories that attempt to treat such topics too seriously. I quite enjoyed it.

    • What, Leslie. "Death Penalty". Sci Fiction 2/19/03.
      • Charles Culpepper is a prison guard in the Death Penalty Unit. He supervises executions, in which the criminal is drugged with Hyperware, enhancing senses and preventing unconsciousness, beheaded, and then kept alive long enough to watch their own body die. All televised, of course. One of the better death penalty satires I've read, but at this point I've read enough such that I can't get too excited about yet another extreme version of executions.

    • Wolfe, Gene. "Castaway". Sci Fiction 2/5/03.
      • A castaway is picked up from his crash landing site on a dead world, and on the way back, he shares cryptic bits of his story with the crewmember who narrates. A story full of fascinating and mysterious moments that in the end don't seem to add up to much.

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