This year I've been getting by mostly on short fiction, audiobooks and comics/graphic novels. (I have, however, read a few novels, including Hannu Rajaniemi's fantastic début novel The Quantum Thief (2011) and some great G. K. Chesterton stories). So I thought I'd quickly post on some recent short fiction by Wolfe - stories from 2010 to present. Please let me know if there are any I've missed!
Published on Tor.com earlier this year, "Dormanna" (2012) is part of David G. Hartwell's Palencar Project, a collection of five short stories inspired by the art of John Jude Palencar (also available together as an ebook). It follows a young girl, Ellie, as she awakes one morning to find herself with an imaginary friend (who may not be so imaginary after all). It's an enjoyable story, albeit a very short one, and has an ethereal feel to it. The final scene of the story beautifully recreates the great Palencar image it's inspired by (on the cover of the book to the right).
"The Lithosphere Whale"
Earlier this year Wolfe made a flash fiction contribution to the "Critter Corral" of SharedWorlds, a "unique SF/Fantasy teen writing camp at Wofford College," offering an amusing definition of the fictional Lithosphere Whale. Other contributors include Neil Gaiman, Michael Moorcock and Jeff VanderMeer.
"Why I Was Hanged"
Out last year was the supernatural steampunk anthology Ghosts by Gaslight (2011), edited by Jack Dann and Nick Gevers, which included Wolfe's "Why I Was Hanged." The relatively short piece, set in Victorian England, turned out to be a thoroughly creepy horror story. It is narrated in the first person by one James Brooks, a servant of a wealthy 'gentleman of fashion,' who starts receiving visitations at night from a 'maiden of mist'. An interesting twist comes when this apparition claims to be the ghost of Alice Landon, a still-living woman, and asks Brooks to prevent her murder by taking the life of her would-be killer. With the exception of a scene that heavily implies sexual violence, overall "Why I Was Hanged" is a really enjoyable story with a great ending.
"Josh" was published in the limited-edition anthology Portents (2011), edited by Al Sarrantonio, which I somehow only found out about recently. I quickly ordered a copy and it didn't take long to arrive. "Josh" is written as a series of journal entries by a boy in his late teens. It opens with his family moving from a house in the city to large property in the country. Soon after arriving, however, the boy's parents travel in to town and don't return. Most of the story takes place in the seemingly haunted country house, and there are hints of ghosts and vampires here and there. The story, however, is rather opaque - I'm still not entirely sure what was going on. The rather twisted psychology of the narrator, however, does make for interesting reading. "Josh" has also been collected in Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2012, edited by Paula Guran.
This short story was published in the anthology Boondocks Fantasy (2011), edited by Jean Rabe and Martin H. Greenberg. I haven't managed to get my hands on the anthology yet, so I haven't read this one. Please comment on this post if you've read it!
I don't know how I missed this story, which first appeared in the 2010 werewolf anthology Full Moon City, edited by Darrell Schweitzer and Martin H. Greenberg. I found out about it through the Tales To Terrify podcast, which features a reading of Wolfe's "Innocent" in its latest issue (2 March 2012). Not the biggest fan of horror stories, I'm not sure how to think of this one. It certainly has a horror vibe, being a first-person narration from the perspective of a remorseless cannibal and murderer. However, I couldn't get past being quite disgusted by the descriptions of the cannibal's preference for young girls. In spite of his insistence that he never molested a young girl, this turns out to be untrue, as we discover from his cold and detached narration of a very distasteful scene (which needs no repeating here). Can't really recommend this one, at least not to anyone that isn't a fan of this kind of horror story.
Definitely my favourite of Wolfe's recent short stories, "Bloodsport" first appeared in Swords & Dark Magic (2010), edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders, and was subsequently reprinted in The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2011, edited by Rich Horton, and The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2011, edited by Paula Guran. "Bloodsport" is set in a fantasy realm largely based on the game of chess. It's part romance, part tragedy, and although the end is kind of predictable, it felt very poetic. The writing is beautiful and feels very much like one of Wolfe's earlier short stories. For those interested, there is a great discussion of this story on the blog Everything Is Nice.
Last year I wrote a blog post focusing on this short story, which appeared in the Frederik Pohl tribute anthology Gateways (2010), edited by Elizabeth Anne Hull. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic future in which aliens have invaded and almost wiped out humankind, most of whom have been reduced to savages. It is a survival story about a young man who manages to rise through the ranks of the human survivors to become 'king', although this entails all kinda of savagery and misogyny on the protagonist's part. It's an interesting story, although the misogyny and barbarism of the narrator, while serving the narrative, can be quite off-putting. "King Rat" was recently featured on episode 251 of the StarShipSofa podcast.
This short story first appeared in Stories (2010), edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio. It's more hard-sf than any of Wolfe's other recent short fiction, taking place on a spaceship and involving curious alien creatures. The focus on the relationships between the characters aboard the ship reminded me of Wolfe's novella Memorare (2007), which I quite enjoyed.