Spark – A Creative Anthology, Edited by Brian Lewis (2015) – I usually make it a rule not to critique an anthology that contains a story I’ve written, but this collection of short stories is so good, I couldn’t resist. I won’t mention the story I wrote (except perhaps to say how much I appreciate being included with these tales) or the poetry (which is a foreign language to me). I will, however, list the stories and tell you a little about them.
The Frog Who Swallowed the Moon – A clever story of why frogs croak. A “Just So” story of a frog with a beautiful voice who swallows the moon and must give up his singing voice to restore it. I love these “how things got to be the way they are” stories. This one is well written and original.
Migration Patterns of the Striped Eastern Mallard – There are no ducks in the pond, but there are special turtles who eat scraps of paper. On these pieces of paper, a girl writes painful memories of a best friend who died. When the turtles eat the memories, the girl forgets them until she’s an empty shell. Again, a very original idea with a pleasing writing style.
The Familiar and His Alchemist – What if the wizard’s familiar is a mouse, and the mouse is the brains of the duo? A lot of fun and an interesting viewpoint.
Esmeralda – I’m not sure that this story qualifies as speculative fiction but it is a compelling story of a longtime love triangle and a beautiful bird.
Lyric – The most impressive story in the anthology for me. Two royal sisters fall in love with the same viscount. When one pines away, her skeleton is made into a harp who watches her sister marry the viscount and have children. The harp is known to the viscount, and they share the life they should have had if he’d married the sister he truly loved. Atmospheric, spooky, and feels like an ancient tale. Excellent.
Subject Stellar – A creature – actually a young galaxy – is monitored by a scientist who can’t force herself to leave the strange being. Told through scientific journal entries, it’s an emotional telling of a strange relationship and ultimate sacrifice.
To Kill the Stars – A grandson unhooks himself from the internet long enough to accompany his grandfather on an annual squid-fishing trip. A way to connect with the old man and his family’s history, the young man is shocked when they actually snag the last rainbow squid.
Edyn the Monk – An ex-soldier is adopted by a poor family in a poor village. As an outsider, no one trusts him, but when a plague attacks the village, he takes up his sword and defends his new family. Even if he must kill the monk he believes is purposely making everyone sick.
Mortimer’s Sanctuary, and What He Found There – A story of a typical day in the life of a cockroach told from the cockroach’s point of view. An original concept and a unique viewpoint.
Heaven is a Howl Away – Not my favorite story, but cat lovers will enjoy this. A woman dies and, instead of meeting St. Peter at the pearly gates, she’s met (and judged) by the cats she’d lived with at during her life and reminded of her treatment of them.
The Mosquito In My Ear – A story told from the mosquito’s perspective. You almost feel sorry for them in their struggle against The Hand.
Butterflies – A man experiences a strange fluttering in his stomach, but his doctor identifies it as a case of butterflies. The cure? Get close to the woman who gave them to him.
A special mention of Paul Pederson, the illustrator. He does a great job of capturing the essence of the tales in very appropriate renderings. My favorite illustration is the one he did for my story (of course), “How Tigers Got Their Stripes.”