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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

ANTHOLOGY: "The Modern Fae's Guide to Surviving Humanity"

Title: The Modern Fae's Guide to Surviving Humanity
Editor: Joshua Palmatier & Patricia Bray
Plot Type: Fantasy
Publisher: Daw, 2012

     This anthology is subtitled "14 Original Stories That Probe the Problems and Perils of Being Fae in the Mortal World." In these stories, the writers attempt to answer some related questions: "What if the fae were still here, living among us? Perhaps living in secret, doing their best to pass for human. Or perhaps their existence is acknowledged, but they're still struggling to fit in. How have they survived? Are they outcasts clinging to the edges of society, or do their powers ensure success in the mortal realm?" (p. 2) The fae in these stories either try to blend in with the modern world, exist alongside humans but maintain their fae identities, or travel back and forth, keeping their ancient traditions. Some are more successful than others. The stories range from dark to humorous and most are well told, if not memorable. 

Seanan McGuire: "We Will Not Be Undersold"
In this light-hearted story, Dan is a stock clerk at Undermart, a big-box store specializing in plastic kitsch. The story focuses on Dan and his girlfriend, Nimh, who is a member of the management team. Eventually, Dan realizes that Nimh and the other bosses aren't exactly human. They are fae who are doing their best to make an iron-free living in the mortal realm. As Nimh's father explains, "Plastic enhances our enchantments, comes in a variety of pleasant colors, and is dishwasher safe." (p. 20) Click HERE to read my review of McGuire's OCTOBER DAYE series. Click HERE to read my review of her INCRYPTID series.

Susan Jett: "Changeling"
This is a much darker story in which a female fae interferes in the life a human mother. Marisol Martinez has just given birth to a child only to be told by the delivery nurse that her infant is dead. In her grief, she seeks aid from her midwife, Bridget, who gives her a jar of magical ointment and tells her a story about dark fairy enchantments and the power of Christian baptism. 

Kari Sperring: "Water-Called"
In another dark and compelling story, Jenny, a water spirit, must track down and punish a human who is experimenting on other humans and dumping their corpses in her canal. In days long past, Jenny was a powerful spirit who had access to unlimited waterways, but over the centuries, human civilization has encroached to the point that her narrow canal is her last home. With the help of Martin Jack, a black shuck (aka Hellhound), she sets off on a righteous, watery journey to make things right.

Juliet E. McKenna: "The Roots of Aston Quercus"
First sentence: "Mora is late with her leaves again." A group of dryads cope with a human plan to replace their grove with a highway by sharing their ancient secrets with a group of environmental activists. 

Avery Shade: "To Scratch an Itch"
Opening sentences: "Autumn Sky knew that there were three rules she must never forget. One, don't tell anyone what her daddy was. Two, if she ever got an itch between her eyes, she couldn't scratch it, but had to tell her parents right away. And three, always, always try to behave like any other normal little girl her age." Autumn, a young weather elemental, comes into her powers and accidentally causes a destructive storm. When she runs away from home to hide from her parents' inevitable reaction, she makes a human friend and begins to accept her unique heritage.

Kristine Smith: "Continuing Education"
Lee Roland is taking courses at Monckton College so that she can earn her MBA and kick-start her career. After one of her fellow students disappears, Lee discovers that her professors are keeping some magical secrets, and she finds herself faced with a momentous choice.

Barbara Ashford: "How to Be Human"
Opening sentences: "Is there anything more pathetic than a menopausal faery? Yes. A menopausal male faery. Leading a motivational seminar for humans. At the New Rochelle Radisson" The protagonist is a centuries-old faery who has been earning a living in the mortal world by performing for human audiences. His problem is that he has lost his enthusiasm and is having trouble keeping his focus. When a gang of young faeries threaten him and his young human assistant, he suddenly has an epiphany that gains him a new lease on life. This is one of the best of the collection. Click HERE to read my review of Ashford's Spellcast.

April Steenburgh: "How Much Salt"
First sentence: "The world had gotten smaller, and no one had seen fit to tell him." Dylan is a selkie who intermittently visits the mortal world, each time finding discomfiting changes. This time, his favorite basking place is overrun with humans. When he sloughs off his skin and takes a walk through a near-by sea park, he discovers that it is filled with happy selkies and learns that he can find peace in the human world after all.

Anton Strout: "Hooked"
Leannan is a murderous female fae who has made her home in Central Park for centuries, luring hapless mortals to their deaths. When a seemingly harmless victim shows up one day, he turns the tables on her, and Leannan meets her match. Click HERE to read my review of Strout's SIMON CANDEROUS series.

S. C. Butler: "Crash"
Faeries on Wall Street? What is this world coming to? When Janet, a young human stockbroker, hears a legend about a leprechaun with a real treasure at the end of his rainbow, she decides to take it seriously and improve her financial life. Leprechauns are very tricky, though, and Janet's windfall has an unexpected ripple effect on the world at large. 

Jean Marie Ward: "Fixed"
Opening sentences: "There were lots of advantages to being a part-time cat. Being chased by a Rottweiler named Bitsy through Holcomb Creek Park wasn't one of them." Jack, a halfbreed cat shifter, is minding his own business when he gets hauled off to a sinister Sidhe vet after his scary Rottweiler experience and gets rescued by a teenage girl with a surprising secret. This is a humorous and well-told story, one of the highlights of the collection.

Shannon Page, & Jay Lake: "A People Who Always Know"
Hestia, the former queen of Faerie, is on the hunt for a gang of youthful fae lads who are sneaking into mortal earth, kidnapping changelings, and dragging them off to Faerie before their scheduled time. The young Fae are arrogant as, time after time, they are too quick for Hestia--even locking her out of Faerie at one point. But Hestia has been around a long time, and she has a few tricks up her sleeve. The conflict between the senior citizen and the cheeky youngsters reminded me of the great parking lot stand-off scene between Kathy Bates and two teen-agers in the movie, Fried Green Tomatoes. This story is one of the best of the collection.

Elizabeth Bear: "The Slaughtered Lamb"
First sentence: "The smell of the greasepaint was getting to Edie." Edie is a shape-shifting drag queen who was banished from her pack because of her life-style choices. One night, she gets a chance to redeem herself when she helps some magical acquaintances rescue a girl and a magical horse from the Wild Hunt as it thunders through Greenwich Village. I'd love to read more about Edie and her friends.

Jim C. Hines: "Corrupted"
First sentence: "If I was going to save this city, I needed three things: one empty detergent bottle, one magazine clipping of Zoe Saldana as Uhura from Star Trek, and one stolen child." Jessica is a fae who works for the FBI, protecting humans from rogue fae. Her days are numbered, though, as her lengthy time in the human world has exposed her to so much iron, rust, and death that she is on the verge of becoming one of the very monsters that she has hunted down for so many years. Good story and great opening sentence.

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