Oh dear. The first [b:Sisters in Fantasy|720683|Sisters in Fantasy 2|Martin H. Greenberg|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1243382956s/720683.jpg|706925] was a pretty solid collection. This is not: it has a few stand outs and a few truly awful stories, and then a load of completely forgettable tales. The truly weird thing about this collection is that there were a number with no fantastical elements: Nancy Springer's "The Way Your Life Is," Gael Baudino's "Bitterfoot" (a good piece about a woman fighter pilot dogfighting with the enemy), Martha Soukup's "Fuzz". There is a lot of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse in these stories, and a lot of the time it felt totally gratuitous.
"This Fair Gift" by Pamela Dean. Told from a secretary's point of view, the tale of a law office and magical garments. I really liked the magic in this book, which sometimes felt fantastic & inexplicable, and in other cases seemed almost mundane.
"Vashti and God" by Valerie Freireich. A cool retelling of Esther--the previous queen receives messages from God telling her how to gain equality for women, and in obeying God loses her place and enables Esther to become queen. I love the different facets to this tale.
"Volsi" by Diana Paxson. While the king tries to spread Christianity, one family holds out and continues using fertility magic. This felt like a window into another time and place.
"Stone Whorl, Flint Knife" by Rebecca Ore. In the strange area that is Bracken county, where magic works and logic doesn't, one woman seeks vengeance for her son's accidental death. The way people think about vengeance and consequences in this county fascinates me.
"The Witches of Junket" by Patricia McKillip. A dark magic that was banished thousands of years ago has returned, and old Granny Heather is the first to know about it. McKillip is fantastic at working magic with mundane items like fishing hooks: at one point the witches literally knit (using knitting needles!) a protective shield out of trash. McKillip is also
the best at creating creepy fantasy moments:
"What she had caught turned to her.
She felt it as she had felt it looking out of the moon's eye. She went small, deep inside her, a little animal scurrying to find a hiding place. But there was no place; there was no world, even, just her, standing in a motionless, soundless dark with a ghostly fishing pole in her hands, its puny hook swallowed by something vast as fog and night, with the line dangling out of it like a piece of spaghetti."
My least favorites:
"Angel of the City" by Susan Shwartz. Uriel is on patrol in NYC, and he and the other angels grouse about God and humans. Tries to be funny but fails, then ends on a schmaltzy note.
"A Night at the J Street Bar" by Susan Casper. Three page story set in a rundown bar, where the denizens bemoan that it will shortly be shut down. At the end of the story, the bar owner shuts off the lights and then switches off the perpetual drunk who sits on the same stool every night. I have no idea what the point of this story was.
"The Way Your Life Is" by Nancy Springer. Five page story told entirely in the second person, about a guy who gets a snake to look cool and then throws a wild party. No magic and deeply annoying.
"Fuzz" by Martha Soukup. A young woman tries to be an actress, but then she gets drunk with her friends (the "amusing" drunk bit takes forever) and then a friend has sex with her against her will. No idea why this was a story, let alone included in this collection.
The worst of the worst:
"Wet Wings" by Mercedes Lackey. Sometimes a story is so self-indulgent that I actually feel embarrassed for the author. "Katherine" is one of the few true mages left in an age when Political Correctness destroys magic. My first clue that this would be terrible is when "Katherine" sadly says to her pet butterfly: "'We always knew that there would be repression and a burning time again,'" which is swiftly followed by such gems as
"They had decreed that everyone must be equal, and no one must be offended ever. And then they had begun the burning and the banning...She had known that her own work was doomed when a book that had been lauded for its portrayal of a young gay hero was banned because the young gay hero was unhappy and suicidal. She had not even bothered to argue. She simply announced her retirement and went into seclusion, pouring all her energies into the magic of her butterflies."
You hear that? If you don't like Vanyel
then Mercedes Lackey will take her ball and go home, you book burners! Then the "Psi-cops" break down her door and "Katherine" thinks, "in a way, she had expected it. She had been a world-renowned fantasy writer; she had made no secret of her knowledge of real-world magics." So "Katherine" pours the last of her magic into her butterfly, and the story ends "And she turned, full of dignity and empty of all else, to face her enemies."
Damn those Politically Correct cops, who will arrest you if you call your cat a "pet" instead of an "Animal Companion" and who forbid nice white ladies from wearing Native American jewelry! The whole thing is so horribly obviously wish-fulfillment and wallowing in self-pity that I could hardly bear to read it.