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Short Tuesday #8: “Mama Bruise” by Jonathan Carroll

I sound like a broken record: this week I again returned to Tor to peruse their original fiction! This week’s Short Tuesday contender is a short story by Jonathan Carroll published just a few days ago. You can read it here… FYI that there will be spoilers in this review.

I enjoyed this story, both in terms of voice, pacing, and plot. I thought it was interesting how there are no names for any of the main characters—perhaps this is author trying to emphasize the soul inhabiting the body rather than the body itself? Reincarnation is central to the plot, so if we were juggling names I think that would take away from the message. Also want to add that somehow this is not the first “reincarnation in animal form” work of fiction I’ve read this year! If you like this sort of story, perhaps give The Hungry Ghost a try.

The ending, too, came as a pleasant surprise. At first I was all, oh, their dog’s come home. But if we’re to take what the female MC says as accurate, I think the most logical conclusion is that the other dogs in the neighborhood have come to take out the main characters, so that the secret knowledge they’ve garnered stays secret. It was an unexpected end, perfect for a last boo.

Ooh, I’m really liking all these Tor short stories! And it seems there’s a big backlist and that they publish new works regularly, so I have a ton of great content for more Short Tuesdays. 🙂

Short Tuesday #8: “Circus Girl, The Hunter, and Mirror Boy” by JY Yang

Again this week I returned to Tor.com to peruse their short fiction, and boy am I glad I did. No need to mince words here—this story was fantastic from start to finish, and eeeee, this author has an entire trilogy out as well as more short fiction, and wow wow wow wow wow, did I love this. (Also, can we take a second to appreciate the excellent artwork that accompanies each Tor story? Maybe there’s something to be said about a lack of a book cover being one reason why many readers overlook short fiction.) You can read the short story here…

So everything about this story is great—I have literally zero complaints. (Hell must be freezing over, huh?) The language was perfect: appropriately poetic when it needed to be, sometimes experimental, sometimes matter-of-fact. Plot-wise, we’re thrown into a near-futuristic world much like our own but with witches and spirits, etc. (Sidenote that all these ghouls and ghosties seem to have only existed for twenty years, and I want to know moooooooore in the best way possible. Can we get some longer fiction set in this world? Pretty please?) Yang’s voice keeps us feeling grounded without relying on an info-dump slog, and the main character right away feels like someone we can root for. And our MC has a problem—she’s woken up and every mirrored surface shows not her reflection, but instead a dude she’s aptly named Mirror Boy. She used to see Mirror Boy back in the day as well, but then he went away as her life became more stable. Now he’s back, with some pretty bad news: a serial killer is on the hunt for the MC, ready to make her his latest victim.

Also there’s some very cool ocean-based mythology woven throughout.

Does this seem like a lot for a short story? Don’t worry, I promise that everything wraps up at the end beautifully. Please, read this, then join me in feeling that achey, oh no it’s over feeling. Misery loves company.

Short Tuesday #7: “Blue Morphos in the Garden” by Lis Mitchell

This week I returned to Tor.com for another look at their original fiction. Lis Mitchell’s “Blue Morphos in the Garden” was published just a few days ago, and the beautiful illustration and the promise of magical realism was enough to hook me. You can read the short story right here!

I liked this story quite a bit! It centers around death, tradition, and what it means to be part of a family—don’t want to give anything away, but the family members in the story have a particular heritage relating to death. Every sentence felt purposeful and necessary, and the language itself was beautiful and evocative.

The outer edge of the wing resembles split wood with whorled knots, but each butterfly unfolds itself into a slice of fluttering blue sky and dark stormshadow. Open—sky, closed—wood.

I will say that I liked the story from start to finish, but felt that the opening imagery was the most compelling, I think because after that readers basically have a sense of what’s going on. I don’t want to know all the ins-and-outs with magical realism—would rather preserve a hearty dose of ambiguity. I also thought that Dash, the MC’s partner, was a very weak character personality-wise, leaving me to wonder what the MC sees in him—they seemed very ill-matched, not just because they don’t see eye to eye on the one issue central to the story. I couldn’t help wondering if it weren’t for their child whether they would still be together.

So some interesting things to contemplate while reading this story, coupled with a lot of beautiful imagery and sentence-craft. If magical realism is your thing, definitely give this story a shot.

Short Tuesday #6: “meat+drink” by Daniel Polansky

This week I ventured onto Tor.com to take a look at some of their original short fiction, since the last couple short stories I read in the S.O.S. anthology haven’t been so impressive. I had no idea that Tor even offered original fiction on its website—thanks to the lovely people at Spells, Space & Screams for turning me onto that! I’d heard some positive mention of “meat+drink” previously, so that story jumped out at me immediately. Read it here for free if you’d like…

I really enjoyed this story!!! I mean, it’s vampires, so what’s new, right? 😛 But actually, everything feels new in this story. These are not your typical vampires, just close enough to the edge of humanity to make them sexy. They do not sparkle or glitter—they are instead predatory meat, the memories of their previous lives addled by the vampiric transition, on the hunt for flesh (that’s us humans). (Side note that I haven’t seen the word “flesh” dropped so many times since I read the Interface series by _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9.)

It’s really the tone of the story that sets it apart from other vampire fiction, though. The MC has a matter-of-fact, this horror happened then that horror happened type of voice, leading us steadily through a few days in the life of these vampires. It’s sort of a paranormal slice of life, a window into what it’s like to be a monster living in the Baltimore slums.

Oh, and there’s no capitalization, because capitalization is a human construct, I suppose? Or something. I do think the stylistic choice aids in making the narration feel flatter—a good thing for this story. Everything’s a good thing when it comes to this story. Love it—so go read it!