May-June Short Fiction

Jun 5, 20:51 by IROSF

A thread to discuss recent short fiction.

The article can be found here.
Jun 5, 22:08 by Gregory Benford
But what of BAEN'S UNIVERSE, which debuted this June?

Gregory Benford
Jun 6, 06:01 by Nancy Beck
I agree with Lois' take on almost all the stories in Realms of Fantasy, except for Ice.

I admit to being a bit perplexed by this story; I wasn't sure what to make of it. It's possible that if I understood what the heck Giselle was about I would have enjoyed it.


Jun 6, 07:32 by Lois Tilton
I have not been sent a copy of Baen's Universe for review, but its official debut came after the deadline for this month's column, so it would not have appeared until July, at any rate.
Jun 6, 07:37 by Lois Tilton
Nancy, I do think familiarity with the ballet is necessary to fully appreciate that story. I must say that the author did drop plenty of clues, such as the character named Albrecht, but you have to know the ballet to pick them up.
Jun 7, 09:56 by twosheds
Wow, that's a lot of reading!
Jun 7, 11:07 by Lois Tilton
Two months' worth.
Jun 9, 06:17 by Nancy Beck
Nancy, I do think familiarity with the ballet is necessary to fully appreciate that story. I must say that the author did drop plenty of clues, such as the character named Albrecht, but you have to know the ballet to pick them up.

That's why I qualified my statement; I can't tell you the last time I've seen a ballet.

Anyway, good job as always, Lois!

Jun 9, 07:19 by Lois Tilton

Jun 10, 06:21 by twosheds
I had a similar reaction to the “Kansas…” story by Robertson in FSF. The author sold me on the drama of Amy’s plight early on, and then the story became almost silly. To me, it seemed that the constant references to the “Oz” story became more important than the story being written. And then there were some inconsistencies that bugged the heck out of me. Amy, a rural educated thirteen-year-old would instantly become savvy enough to identify battle armor and gas grenades. Either that or it’s just the author’s intrusion into the story.

In REALMS, my main beef with the “Robin” story is just my individual taste. I thought it was quite over-written, and stock phrase like “I mean you no harm” made me groan. A couple of POV breaks also detract. But I did like the author’s approach to a new telling of an old story.

Catherine Krahe, the author of the undine story, received an honorable mention in Dell’s award for undergraduate SF/F writing. I’m guessing this is her first pro publication, and I like it. I hope to see more from her.

I was looking over the “On Ice..” story in REALMS, and the only thing I have written in the margins is “I don’t understand,” which is not necessarily the author’s fault. Maybe an understanding of the ballet would add to my appreciation of the story.

I’m trying to catch up on the other stories. Slow down, I can’t read that fast! :)
Jun 14, 20:07 by Lois Tilton
Since there have been a number of questions about the story "Ice" from the June Realms, I thought I might post a bit about my take on this one.

First, the ballet Giselle that sets the theme: this is a story of love and betrayal. Giselle is a peasant girl who spurns the affection of her fellow villager, Hilarion, when she is seduced by Prince Albrecht, who is already engaged to another woman. The jealous Hilarion exposes Albrecht's deception, and Giselle dies of grief. Her fate is thus to become one of the wilis, the spirits of jilted maidens who have killed themselves out of love and take revenge by forcing any young men they meet to dance to their deaths. First, Hilarion comes to Giselle's grave and is forced to dance by the queen of the wilis. Then Albrecht appears, and Giselle is ordered to make him dance until he dies, but she forgives him, and he is spared.

The connection with the ballet is made very explicit in the story, in the scene at the bar where we learn that the ballerina's name is Giselle, her companion from the ballet company is Hilaire ["he's such a peasant"] and Delacour's rival on the hockey team is Albrecht. There is a strong atmosphere of rivalry at this point: a longstanding grudge between Delacour and Albrecht, a longstanding tension between Giselle and Hilaire, and a new grudge that Giselle bears against Albrecht when he turns down her advances. When Albrecht is suddenly found dead the next morning, I already suspect Giselle may have been the cause.

At this point, we learn that there is some sort of estrangement between Delacour and his wife, Cynthia, that may have had something to do with Albrecht. Delacour can't make himself call his wife, because if he did, he would have to tell her about Albrecht. "He imagined her handing up the phone to sit back down to dinner with the kids, crying over Albrecht." This is not a normal reaction. It suggests that Cynthia may have been in love with Albrecht, that they were having an affair.

Giselle has sent Delacour tickets to the ballet. His going suggests that he may be under some sort of spell, compelling him. As he watches the ballet, during the scenes with the jealous love triangle, Delacour tells the character of Hilarion that he can relate to his situation, seeing the woman he loves seduced by Prince Albrecht, just as his own wife had an affair with Albrecht the hockey player. Later, the character of Giselle tells him, "Just because you love her doesn't mean she owes you." Delacour thinks of calling his wife, but when he checks his phone there are no messages from her.

After the ballet, Delacour goes to the park to skate, to clear his mind, and he encounters Giselle and the wilis on the ice. They mean to kill him, to force him into the dance of death by seducing him, making him a betrayer of the wife who had betrayed him. But just as Delacour almost succumbs to Giselle's spell, he understands how his wife might have been seduced by Albrecht, and he forgives her, which allows him to break the spell and save himself.

Jun 16, 18:43 by twosheds
Gadzooks. In this case, an appreciation for the ballet seems essential for appreciating the story.
Jun 16, 20:51 by Lois Tilton
Yes. Absolutely. But this is also what makes it a particularly neat read, to see the elements of the ballet flipped around and folded into the story - and then the ballet in the story at the same time, for the Giselle in the story is not the Giselle in the ballet, but perhaps what she has become.
Jun 28, 20:07 by twosheds
Finally caught up with some of this reading (huff, huff!)

I was able to finish only the first two stories in the June issue of F&SF. In “Animal Magnetism”, I was surprised by its sudden plunge into S/SF, but not in a bad way. I enjoyed it. I thought the “Madison” sex story was silly and pointless, but that still put it ahead of “Counterfactual” and “Hallucigenia.” An author can do a lot of things to readers through their stories: excite them, insult them, titillate, revult, inspire or just plain entertain them. But you can’t bore them. I gave up on both “Counterfactual” and “Hallucigenia” a quarter of the way through. You can get a good idea what you’re in for just by flipping through and seeing the blocks of exposition--very little action or dialog. All tell, no show. There’s no point in mentioning the POV struggles I had with Hallucigenia. When I started hitting pages of info dump with only two paragraphs on a page, I knew I was in for drudgery.

The July issue of F&SF was a delight to read. I already made comments on the “Kansas” story, but it kept me interested all the way through. I greatly enjoyed the whole set up of “Holding Pattern.” “Unicorn” was quirky, but that’s OK for variety sometimes. “Luff” had a basic story construction to it; we knew that Imbry was going to use the device to determine his meaning, but that’s OK. The ending was less than satisfying, but what’s really important is the author’s development. I think I’ve read three or four of Hughes’ stories now. His writing is becoming much more sophisticated by becoming simpler. His characters still have their odd speech patterns (which is the author's intent), but the story telling overall is very strong. I really enjoyed it. In “Lineaments” I went through a very odd range of emotions. At first, I thought it was going to be over-written and a chore to read. But as I bought into the story, I found it almost poetic and sing-songy without the drudgery. As I really got into the story I thought “this is why I read this genre.” A really great story with some humor mixed it. Wonderful!
Jun 28, 21:00 by Lois Tilton
"Hallucigenia" is part of a series, a larger work, in which some of the elements had previously appeared. I'm sure it would have been more clear to people who had read the previous stories. I realize now where the title came from - which was not at all clear in the story itself.

There's an interview with Barron at

Jun 29, 08:42 by twosheds
Lois, Thanks for the clarification.

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