Have a Few More Free Short Stories

This week was quite mad with a lot of rumbling and grumbling from Mother Nature. Towards the beginning of the week we had an earthquake; a rarity in Maryland where I live. It rattled everything from the Carolinas all the way up to Canada and led to the shut down of quite a few federal buildings. At the same time a giant storm was heading to shore and as we went to press I'd had to put the column on hold to run out and get hurricane supplies.

Luckily I did have time to squeeze in some reading time in which I read some stories I really enjoyed. Bitter Grounds by Neil Gaiman is now available on the tor.com site. http://www.tor.com/stories/2010/09/bitter-grounds Originally published in Mojo: Conjure Stories anthology and then later in the short story collection Fragile Things, this detailed story is about zombies (not the plague kind, the voodoo kind), a journey, impersonation, being lost and the seduction of letting go. The Zora referenced in the text is Zora Neale Hurston, who wrote during the Harlem Renaissance and is the author of Their Eyes Were Watching God, which is as good as it is heartbreaking. She traveled to Haiti to research zombies and voodoo and if you're interested in this subject you should pick up her book Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica. But first read Bitter Grounds.

Another tale by Neil I read this week is called The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains. This powerful story is about a little man on a dangerous quest for his monarch. He enlists the aid of a reaver. (Not the kind of Firefly or Serenity.) There is treachery, danger, treasure and many other ancient story telling elements. This story shocked me, although looking back I wasn't sure why. My son had a different take saying, "none of the reveals were shocking, but they each lead to the next in a very natural way." The story is fantastic and compelling and can be found at the Fifty-Two Stories site. http://www.fiftytwostories.com/?p=1338

One-Eyed Jack's by Tracy Canfield is an urban fantasy about two women in the same family who fight against evil, but not in a Superman or Spiderman kind of way. Granny Hillburn spends her time doing things like chopping open the buds of kudzu; buds that would grow into things like a meth lab. She and her granddaughter spend most of their energy fighting against the encroachment of a church that doesn't seem too wholesome and an approaching interstate. One-Eyed Jack's is charming and original and a very fast read. http://strangehorizons.com/2011/20110704/jacks-f.shtml

The Dala Horse by Michael Swanwick is an incredibly detailed fairy tale with modern technical elements. Linnea, a young Swedish girl, has to leave home abruptly when an unspecified terrible event occurs. She has a talking backpack, a map that also speaks and a little Dala horse, which gives her important advice. She isn't on the road long when she meets a man, who she views as a troll. The Dala horse warns her that he is dangerous but he is too large and ferocious to fight and she must rely on her wits and the help of her companions. The illustration that accompanies this moving story is just as beautiful as the prose. http://www.tor.com/stories/2011/07/the-dala-horse

Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is a beautifully drawn story by one of my favorite cartoonists; Emily Carroll. Called the Prince and the Sea it's about an unlikely romance between a Prince and a mermaid. This is no prettied up Little Mermaid. You should be prepared for anything. http://emcarroll.com/comics/prince/andthesea.html