Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: The Sunday Morning Transport, Slate Future Tense, and New Edge Sword and Sorcery

The Sunday Morning Transport 10/16 & 11/20/22
Slate Future Tense 9/24/22
New Edge Sword and Sorcery Fall ’22

Catching up with The Sunday Morning Transport in the fall, one of my favorites is “Trinity’s Drag­on” by Holly Lyn Walrath. Trinity is an older woman and space veterinarian, which means she actually has a chance when a sick space dragon wraps itself around her spaceship. Against the advice of New Mars, she goes outside to help it. There’s a certain kinship between her, having left her daughter and now grandbaby behind, and this dragon clearly heavy with an egg. Another beautiful and melancholy tale is “The Lightning Seller Visits Greenvale” by A.C. Wise. David was not having the best summer in this small town because of a broken arm, but he was heading out to see the lightning seller when he hears that his brother has fallen. That’s a precursor to his brother being hospitalized with a long illness and finally dying. Ever since, David’s life has been on a kind of autopilot. He finally returns to that home town, somewhat aimlessly, and the lightning seller is waiting for him with an offering that might help.

Yellow” by B. Pladek features as Slate Future Tense’s fiction offering for September. Chase and Tara are married, but while Tara is trying to fight for water rights in a fractured, corporatist United States, Chase is obsessively checking their risk scores with the SafeT app. He stays home, track­ing Tara and freaking out when she doesn’t check in. Relationship-wise it’s an unhealthy dynamic, but he also starts to see evidence of certain risk scores being manipulated to affect social behavior. It’s a well-done look at a too-plausible future.

Fall of 2022 brings with it a new entry to the short fiction world with issue #0 of New Edge Sword and Sorcery Magazine, edited by Oliver Brack­enbury. It has a mission statement: “…takes the genre’s virtues – outsider protagonists, thrilling energy, wondrous weirdness, and a large body of classic tales – then alloys inclusivity, mutual creator support, a positive fan community, and en­thusiastic promotion of new works into the mix.” The resulting stories out of the gate certainly maintain the feel of classic sword and sorcery along with being very LGBTQIA+ friendly. Some readers may feel certain stories lean on exotifi­cation, with many of the stories being clearly themed by certain areas – European settings, or Mongolian, or Egyptian, etc. The most Fafhrd and Gray Mouser-style story here is “Old Moon Over Irukad” by David C. Smith. Varissa and Edrion, both gay, take a job about a scroll. They’re double crossed (of course) and beset by the vam­pires in a tomb/temple. There’s lots of magic and action and Varissa and Edrion feel like a well-established partnership. “Vapors of Zinai” by J.M. Clarke is probably the most straight-up fun adventure tale, with Kyembe landing in an Egyptian-flavored city after misadventures with an object of power. He’s rescued by a priestess, who needs him to track down a supernatural threat stalking the populace. It’s all wrapped up with her priest husband and his suspicious advisor. Kyembe is smart, savvy, and strong, and the story doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s a story here that feels more sui generis, “The Beast of the Shadow Gum Trees” by T.K. Rex. Moth is a forest creature who became mortal out of love for Amas, a bard. He wants to die when Amas dies, so throws himself into the sea and washes up on the shore of a new land. There, a unicorn is trying to battle invasive species on its own. Moth is reluctant to help, still feeling despondent, but eventually steps up. The battle of ecosystems has nothing in common with traditional sword & sorcery except all the melodrama and magic, and the setting feels more like sere California than anything out of D&D.

Recommended Stories
“The Beast of the Shadow Gum Trees”, T.K. Rex (New Edge Sword and Sorcery Fall ‘22)
“Trinity’s Dragon”, Holly Lyn Walrath (The Sunday Morning Transport 10/16/22)

Karen Burnham is an electromagnetics engineer by way of vocation, and a book reviewer/critic by way of avocation. She has worked on NASA projects including the Dream Chaser spacecraft and currently works in the automotive industry in Michigan. She has reviewed for venues such as Locus Magazine, NYRSF, Strange Horizons, SFSignal.com, and Cascadia Subduction Zone. She has produced podcasts for Locusmag.com and SFSignal.com, especially SF Crossing the Gulf with Karen Lord. Her book on Greg Egan came out from University of Illinois Press in 2014, and she has twice been nominated in the Best Non-Fiction category of the British SF Awards.

This review and more like it in the January 2023 issue of Locus.

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