Read an ARC from the author
Short story writer Charles Payseur is prolific in both his reviews and his short story career. This collection is a compact, but mighty sample. There is something for everyone, from stories taking place down on earth, to space exploration, to tales about black holes and space ships full of cats.
They’re queer, they’re speculative, with lovely imagery and relationships that feel all-too human throughout. Some stories are also chilling, in more ways than one. There is a breadth here of speculative experience that is a wonder to behold.
Author Charles Payseur will be featured as this blog’s next interview guest on July 18th, 2021.
I’ll start with my overall impressions. I had a great time reading this collection and experiencing a wide range of experiences, feelings, settings, and more. What really stood out to me throughout the collection was how blue collar and Midwestern some of the stories were. These backgrounds influence the voice and the background, which makes for tight narration and characterization. It’s a change from the nobility-focused fantasy I’m used to reading or stories about strictly about scientists or space militaries.
The range Payseur brings to the table here ensures a riveting reading experience. Here are the specific stories that resonated with and/or delighted me:
- “Shoots and Ladders”
- Timey wimey about a gun that can destroy realities
- The search for perfection comes at what cost
- Abstract and evocative
- “Humans Die, Stars Fade”
- The narrator’s partner has collapsed into a black hole
- Heart-wrenching and hurts in the best kinds of ways
- Excellent use of repetition
- “A Lumberjack’s Guide to Dryad Spotting”
- Instructional and creepy in ways the best folklore is
- Sometimes trees have fairies in them and you’re a lumberjack
- “Spring Thaw”
- A meditation on the nature of change
- Fantastic ice-based imagery and a deep appreciation for seasons and
- The circular structure really worked for me, especially as it explores loss
- “The Death of Paul Bunyan”
- Paul Bunyan learns about climate change and government failure
- Transformation of the environment with such melancholy prose
- Intriguing use of formatting to establish dialogue
- A ghost story!
- The slipstream of consciousness here is effective and creepy
- “The Sloppy Mathematics of Half-Ghosts”
- It’s a spaceship full of cats, of course, I’m delighted
- Ghosts hook up with non-ghosts
- Just fun in its word play, world-building, and adventure
- “Little Blue Men”
- Haunted toys, a sentient house, and ceaseless hunger
- Terrifying, had me screaming
- CW for emetophobia