A. V. Mather

A. V. Mather is a Brisbane-based speculative fiction writer. You can follow her on Twitter @AVMather

Cranky Ladies of History

CLOH-cover-smallThis anthology shines a spotlight on some of the famous, infamous and, more often, overlooked women of history and legend. According to editors, Tansy Raynor Roberts and Tehani Wessely, inclusion has been reserved for ‘women who bucked the trends of their time and took on cultural norms to challenge society’s rules and ideas about how women should behave.’

With that in mind, prepare yourself for a dazzling array of pirate queens, virgin-sacrificers and rabble-rousers, God-fearers and Fear-of-God-ers. This book fair takes you by the throat with 23 stories starring women of the Sword, of God and of Mysticism but – first and foremost – of themselves. The players are rich and varied, with many a dark horse featuring alongside well-knowns such as Ann Boleyn and Elizabeth I. Each of these stories is highly emotive: many laced through with dark symbolism, traces of magic, witchcraft and ‘women’s business.’

Some of the leading ladies are captured at a moment of self-discovery, which will turn them into the characters we have come to know. Others knew who they were from the very first breath. ‘Knowledge was power. And I wanted to be knowledgeable’, says Neferure, young daughter of the assassinated Pharoah in Amanda Pillar’s ‘Neter Nefer’. It could well be the credo of the whole anthology.

We don’t often credit the people of Ancient Egypt, Victorian England or colonial America with the political and social sensibilities that we employ and engage in today. I admire the ability of the authors to reach into the dry and dusty recordings of history and tease out the personal quirks and motivations that make identifiable human beings. Whether petty or grand, it’s these qualities that bring legendary figures to life. ‘Hallowed Ground’ by Juliet Marillier, ‘The Lioness’ by Laura Lam, and ‘Due Care and Attention’ by Sylvia Kelso stand as wonderful examples. The result is a collection of stories that are engaging, fascinating and, often, all too brief.

In the foreword, the editors also make mention of how these women are often buried in historical accounts, which certainly rings true. After reading the book, I realised that I felt instantly oriented in a story when an iconic male character was mentioned. A prime example is Henry the VIII himself. His wives and daughters are still often presented as possessions, picked up and discarded, despite each one’s role in influencing the shaping of a nation. They are celebrated here, in ‘Queenside’ by Liz Barr and ‘Glorious’ by Faith Mudge, with some beautiful insights into their perspectives of events.

It could be said that this is a book of outlaws, in the true sense of the word. These are complicated women, as vicious in battle as men, often more so, and with memories that run long. They are also caring and compassionate, stubborn, headstrong, brilliant, violent and spiteful. These stories raise questions that have been applied through history whenever women have acted outside social perception of ‘what is proper’.

Some give a definite sense of time and place, while others focus instead on the events at hand. They are not arranged in any particular order other than the book title itself. What you have here is a treasure chest in which you will find a very eclectic collection of sharp and glittering delights.

While some stories could be considered gentle and reflective, others deal with tales of betrayal, vengeance, insanity and greed. For these reasons, I suggest that this is not a book to be read in one sitting. They should be taken out, one by one, and admired under the light. Readers who prefer to engage with characters in short, sharp bursts should enjoy this aspect.

The contributing authors are as talented and diverse a group as you could expect to find in Speculative Fiction today. They are award winners and nominees, contributors to and editors of anthologies, and writers of poetry, blogs, podcasts, social and political commentary. The diversity and quality of thought is reflected in this timely education on a few of the remarkable women of history and legend. It makes you wonder why they have been ‘buried beneath the weight of years’, when countless male figures are borne up by it.

Joelene Pynnonen

 

Joelene Pynnonen is a Brisbane based writer who loves YA fiction.

ITH CoverStories of other worlds–or of our own world altered almost beyond recognition–have fascinated us for time immemorial. Insert Title Here, FableCroft’s latest anthology, offers a glimpse into a few of these worlds. Whether it’s exploring the distant future, exploring a future that took a slightly different historical route, or exploring a new reality, you can expect an onslaught of imagination in these pages.

The stories vary wildly in content. A Guardian whiles away his days defending the sacred Chalice that protects his homeland until his faith is tested. A shearer risks the wrath of the Governor when he rescues the man’s captive wife–only to discover that he has stirred up more trouble than he could have envisioned. A man who summons demons is called upon to summon an angel–and the world may never survive the repercussions.

These are a few of the tales to be found in this anthology. The stories here are far more adult than the other anthologies I’ve read from Tehani Wessely and, as she says in her introduction, they are darker than the other anthologies she has edited before. There’s none of the fledgling hope that One Small Step boasts, nor any of awed respect commanded by the stories in Cranky Ladies of History.

What is abundant in Insert Title Here, however, is consistently astounding world-building. Story after story explores unfamiliar realms – and story after story succeeds in making those realms blindingly convincing. As the title suggests, the possibilities in these stories are endless, and some of the worlds are so lovingly rendered that they would be more suited to a novel.

Some of these stories sacrifice character-building to create the worlds they depict. However, one that achieved the perfect balance of character, world-building, and plot was Stephanie Burgis’s ‘The Art of Deception’. The main characters, Julia and Hrabanic, counter each other wonderfully. She with her ability to manoeuvre delicate political trysts and he with his talent for anticipating and neutralising physical danger: both sorely needed traits in the perilous world they inhabit.

It’s difficult to know what to expect when settling down to read a book entitled Insert Title Here. In this case, a collection of wildly imaginative speculative short stories set in different times, dimensions or worlds. There are some gems hidden in these pages, but wait for a dark night to read them.

 

 Insert Title Here – Tehani Wessely (Ed.)

 FableCroft Publishing (April 1, 2015)

 ISBN: 9780992553418

Dear Readers Mine, as you know I don’t write a lot of short stories, so when one’s about to come out, it’s a big thing for me. It’s even more satisfying that the story is in a collection put out by an indie press that I love.

The Insert Title Here will be launched at Swancon 2015 by Tehani Wessely from Fablecroft Publishing. My story is SF horror and is entitled SALVATRIX.

CHECK. IT. OUT!

ITH Cover

 

Table of Contents

Kathleen Jennings The Last Case of Detective Charlemagne
Joanne Anderton 2B
DK Mok Almost Days
Matthew Morrison Sins of meals past
Tom Dullemond The Last Voyage of Saint Brendan
Dirk Flinthart Collateral Damage
Dan Simpson The Winter Stream
Darren Goossens Circle
Alan Baxter Beyond the Borders of All He Had Been Taught
Thoraiya Dyer The Falcon Races
Robert Hood Footprints in Venom
Caitlene Cooke Circa
Tamlyn Dreaver Reflections
David McDonald Her face like lightning
Marianne de Pierres Salvatrix
Dan Rabarts Oil and bone
Ian Creasey Ministry of Karma
Stephanie Burgis The art of deception
Marissa Lingen & Alec Austin Empty Monuments
Sara Larner Living in the Light
Alexis A. Hunter Always Another Point
Awards

davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 

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