This and That

Once upon a time, I went to a used bookstore and bought some anthologies, among other books.  I do this a lot, as you may have noticed.  What is unusual is the fact that this was bought on the day when I said “screw it, I just want new books to read” and didn’t really glance at anything very much.  I bought books on the basis of title or author alone, with no real idea of whether or not these were good decisions.

That’s how I ended up with Once Upon a Galaxy.  You may recall that I am an absolute sucker for fairy tales.  And while I don’t read nearly as much science fiction as I do fantasy, I still enjoy a well-written tale regardless.  So with that kind of title, I figured the book was worth a shot.

The introduction was normal, the stories stronger than some other anthologies I’d read this year, but it wasn’t until I’d finished a particularly good one that followed the events after The Emperor’s New Clothes that I realized the whole book would be good.  I had just turned the page to find “The Nightingale” by Michelle West.  I knew before even reading the story, which I had never even heard of before, that the whole book would be this solid.  And I was not disappointed.

Later I ran into Fiona Patton’s “The Control Device” and realized that this could well be where Tanya Huff’s “Nanite, Star Bright” story was originally published.  In the introductions to stories in some of her anthologies, she mentions that it’s not uncommon for she and her partner to accidentally check each other’s inboxes without realizing it, and it also happens that they are sometimes invited to contribute to the same collections.  Sure enough, the retelling of the shoemaker was here.

There are three kinds of stories in this collection.  First and foremost, there are old, classic fairy tales retold with a sci-fi twist.  These stories have the standard recognizable elements of their inspirations, much like updated movie adaptations.  The second type of tale is stories that read exactly like old fairy tales, but in a science-fiction setting.  New stories told in an old fashion.  The last type is probably my least favorite.  These are sci-fi stories told in a modern way to mimic the intent of the old fairy tales.  Fairy tales were used to inform their audience, whether of stranger danger, or basic kindness and generosity, or whatever the teller wished to convey.  The last stories are teaching tales that don’t necessarily have the same lyrical flow that I personally associate with fairy tales.

I do like that multiple stories take place in traditional fairy tale settings and time periods, but also involve one or more people time-traveling.  I guess it seems like an obvious way to mix the two in hindsight, but when I first started reading “The Emperor’s Revenge” by Stanley Schmidt, it was an eye-opener that made me grin as I read.  And not just because the story was rather amusing.

Of the fourteen authors, I really only recognized the three I mentioned above: Michelle West, Fiona Patton, and Tanya Huff.  Apparently I’ve got two other stories by Bruce Holland Rogers, so this third helped to weight the balance in favor of stories I prefer.  His “Sleeping Beauty” is an odd duck in some ways, but it was a fitting conclusion to this anthology.  As for his other work, I truly loved “The Art of War” in Women of War, but found “The Gift of Rain Mountain” from Young Warriors: Stories of Strength to be profoundly depressing.

I’ve bought anthologies on the strength of a single author before, so to have read a third of these people before is fairly normal.  And, as I’ve said, Once Upon a Galaxy is a good, solid book.  In fact, I seem to have done quite well in recent weeks as far as randomly selecting books with little to no knowledge about their content.  It’s probably a bit of luck mixed in with an understanding of what to look for.

Anyway, I wanted to get a bit more out of the Pile today.  Manga’s nice and short and easy to read, so I figured it was time to revisit Blue Exorcist.  I started with volumes 15 and 16 to get back up to speed, which was helpful as the new volume 17 was about delving into Shura’s backstory.  It is not the happiest of backstories, but certainly not the saddest we’ve seen thus far in the series.  It seems like most of the main characters come from broken homes of some kind, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  Shura’s is just a little weirder than most.

I get the feeling that while we continue to explore character backstories, this is really just the calm before the storm.  The next major thing to occur will probably be the Exorcist Certification Exams, when most of the main characters graduate from being Exwires to true Exorcists.  Afterwards we’re likely to have another major battle with the Illuminati.  Of course, these are just my predictions from feeling the rhythm of the story, so we’ll see how right or wrong they end up when volume 18 comes out.  But that’s a ways away.

It does feel good to get another quick read out of my Pile as I track incoming packages.  The earliest any should arrive is Monday, but I think a couple are slated for Wednesday.  And there’s those rereads I should be considering, not to mention the rest of the Pile.

You know, I totally failed to check the mail today.  I guess that’s because I didn’t leave home.  But I did have a nice, relaxing and lazy day the likes of which I haven’t really had in quite some time.  So there was that.


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