This edition of “Fantasy Review” may be a bit unorthodox. I wanted to cover Renewal, the new anthology released by Queer Sci-Fi and Mischief Corner Books. The two team up once a year to host a flash fiction contest (300 words or less). Of all the submissions, only 110 were selected for publication. And of those chosen, three placement awards were given out, a judge’s choice for each of the five judges, and twenty-five honorable mentions.
Since discussing all 110 entries would be nearly impossible, I narrowed my focus to the winners and judge’s choice recipients.
A brief synopsis:
First Place Winner
“Mating Season” by Steve Fuson
A tale of resignation and then realization. A young female repulsed by the opposite sex is given a son, and through this bond sees how precious a treasure a child is.
Second Place Winner
“In a Bind” by SR Jones
Out in space, solutions get creative. A human pilot creates an unorthodox playpen for a bunch of alien eggs.
Third Place Winner
“Urban Renewal” by Siri Paulson
Changing things, for better or worse. Sikander's home is scheduled for a renewal. Unbeknown to him, it's also a renewal of his life.
Judge’s Choice Recipients:
“Bluebonnets” by Emily Horner
A futuristic Johnny Appleseed. In a post-apocalyptic world, a woman seeks the blue wildflowers her girlfriend always spoke of. Though love may be lost, the seeds planted along the way still bloom.
“ARC” by ER Zhang
The line at the DMV is always long. In the distant future, an alien shapeshifter needs to renew its visa. Unfortunately, to do so it needs a new ARC card. After hours of waiting and dozens of papers, revealing its true form may be its salvation.
“The Wrong Daughter” by Robyn Walker
The black sheep of the family. In a world where the "bad" children are left in the borderlands, Mary's daughter Annabelle is just shy of that point. But when Annabelle comes carrying tales about her sister, Alice, Mary wonders who the bad one really is.
“Love Rituals” by Elsa M León
A lovesick witch seeks a demon. After unsuccessfully trying to summon a demon with a spell, a witch's crocodile familiar pokes fun at its mistress's unlikely crush.
“The Dust” by A.M. Soto
The Earth is dry. Meg’s childhood memory of snow and rain are awoken when she spots a cloud in the sky.
Of these eight stories, I enjoyed “The Wrong Daughter” the most. Featured in the anthology’s science fiction section, I’d compare it to a horror tale as well. It’s got just a bit of that hair-tingling terror that made me wish the story was longer. The character development of Annabelle is expertly done in the allotted length.
For suburb settings, “Love Rituals” was amazing. The witch and her crocodile familiar live in the bayou, and the crocodile’s words elicit that soft, southern dialect to echo in your head. The familiar itself is quite a hook; I’d be fascinated to read more fantasy stories set in such locations.
“Bluebonnets,” while post-apocalyptic, was still a beautiful romance. It spoke of hope even though the world was falling apart around her, and lasting emotions despite the fact the love had diminished.
And “ARC” was familiar in its anecdote (the common runaround seen at the DMV), but still so great to see from an alien’s perspective. A nice comical break and another story I wanted to read more of.
The anthology is an amazing collection of works, ranging from sci-fi and fantasy to paranormal and horror. There’s something in here for everyone, and since it takes only a minute to read each story, you’ll keep going and going. On a side note, my own addition, “Springtime Fae,” was awarded an honorable mention!