This anthology is different for several reasons. None of the stories are longer than 1,500 words, meaning a great many of them feel unfinished. They are also split into various genres including paranormal, mystery and crime, literary and memoir, science fiction and fantasy, historical, adventure and western, and young adults and children. I kind of like that.
The same writers’ names appear over and over across genres, giving the reader a nice taste of the writer’s style and ability to write in different categories.
There are over forty stories in this anthology, but I’m only going to discuss my top ten. As a SF and fantasy reader, my favorites skew in that direction. Full disclaimer: I have a story in this collection. I will not be reviewing it.
I’ll start with “Unbidden” by Sabrina Chapman as it’s a good example of being too short. A young unemployed woman becomes friends with a street preacher. When he disappears, she goes to his house and discovers he’s been dead five years. The end. In a larger piece, we might have some explanation for this Twilight Zone ending. Well-written, but I wanted to know what happened next.
One of the editors, ML Condike, has several good stories in this anthology. She does a good job with “Eye of Shiva” when a widow returns to the Pacific island where she met her husband in WWII. Sentimental and sad, it’s full of detail and is satisfying at 1,500 words.
Her husband and fellow editor, BJ Condike, describes the life of a man in an automobile accident who prefers his drug-induced fantasy life to his real one in “Where’s Miranda?” Also works in a short format.
Probably my favorite story is not in the SF and Fantasy section at all but in Mystery and Crime. Diane Windsor’s “Red Wigglers” is about a recent widow who comes up with a novel and practical way to prevent the bank and police from evicting her. Lots of macabre fun. Perfect for a short short story.
ML Condike has another fun tale in “Outside My Window” when a housewife and her cat deal with bears attacking her bird feeder
“Flying High, Flying Fast” is written by a duo, Charles Breakfield and Rox Burkey. They have several stories in this anthology, but this one about a clever mayor defending a pilot’s illegal over-flight of the town is one of my favorites.
Gary Christenson also has a couple great stories in this collection, but “The Garden Will Take Care of Us” is a sweet tale about a young man getting shot while protecting his younger sister from thugs. She asks the garden gnomes for help.
I wish there were more Katie Pierce Farrier stories. Her “Lost and Found” about post-apocalyptic survivors finding a treasure worth more than gold is great. In a short space, she does solid world-building and gives us an uplifting story.
In the Historical section, Victoria Calder gives us “The Wild Run,” a slice of Americana about a silk dress in a rainstorm. Lovely and not my type of story at all.
Finally, I have to mention Robert C. Taylor’s three stories together because each one is a cute little tale about life. In “Road Trip,” a trip to a Safari Park ends in embarrassment at the monkey cage, In “Nightmare Theater,” a humorous tale of a boy wakes up after being touched by The Hand. “Playing for God” features a young man whose guitar playing is so bad that he’s forced to play for the pigs. Very sweet.