Deal Me In, Week 16 ~ “Riddle”

DealMeIn

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Riddle” by Ogbewe Amadin

Card picked: 2 – a WILD card
Found at: Fireside Magazine

The Story

I think Aunty Adesuwa is a witch. Mama says so sometimes.

To Idara, Mama never lies, and when Mama says that witches are evil, it must be so. But witchcraft also see,s like it could be a wonderful thing, full of possibilities. Idara sets out to prove whether Aunty Adesuwa is really a witch and really evil. It’s a riddle that isn’t easily solved.

Fireside Magazine showcases some really nice flash fiction. This one has been bookmarked since January and I decided to choose it for my wild card this week, even though it doesn’t fit with the sci fi tales I’ve chosen for hearts. Glad I did. It’s a lovely story with a nice touch of ambiguity.

The Author
I think this might be Nigerian author Ogbewe Amadin’s first publication. I’m pretty sure it won’t be his last.

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Deal Me In, Week 15 ~ “A Human Stain”

DealMeIn

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“A Human Stain” by Kelly Robson

Card picked: 6
Found at: Tor

The Story
Down on her luck, Helen is offered the opportunity to accompany Bärchen, a man she barely knows beyond his propensity for revelry, to his ancestral home to teach his orphaned nephew English for the summer. It shouldn’t be too bad of a job even though Bärchen lives in a remote castle called Meresee, the servants barely do their jobs, and Peter’s beautiful French nursemaid won’t open her mouth except to say oui. After only spending a day at home, Bärchen hastily returns to Munich, leaving Helen to puzzle through the lies and secrets of Meresee.

If you smashed The Turn of the Screw into a H. P. Lovecraft tale, but gave it a female protagonist with agency and wit, you’d have something like “A Human Stain.” It’s a chilling tale, well-told.

The Author
I’m fairly unfamiliar with Kelly Robson, but she’s had a bunch of publications in the last few years. In fact, her first novel just came out!

Deal Me In, Week 14 ~ “The Luck of Roaring Camp”

DealMeIn

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“The Luck of Roaring Camp” by Bret Harte

Card picked: 8
Found at: AmericanLiterature.com

The Story
For a story set in a mining camp in 1850 California, this is an awfully sweet tale.

There was commotion in Roaring Camp.

The commotion is the birth of a baby to the only woman in the camp, Cherokee Sal. Sal doesn’t survive childbirth. While the men of the camp aren’t painted in entirely rosy colors, nothing is said about who the child’s father might be. The task of caring for the infant falls to “Stumpy” and his ass (as in donkey). It’s figured that Stumpy is the best choice since he already has two families…

After a month has passed and the little boy seems to be thriving under the care of his adoptive father, he is christened Thomas Luck, since his birth has heralded a measure of luck for the camp. All the men of the camp feel some measure of responsibility for Tommy, or “The Luck.” Gradually, Roaring Camp cleans itself up as everyone wants to be a little better and enjoy the world a little more for the child’s sake. Alas, there is ultimately not a happy ending, but one can hope that Roaring Camp’s luck didn’t completely leave it.

I didn’t remember putting some western short stories on my Deal Me In list, but I’m glad I did!

hosted by Nick @ One Catholic Life

Deal Me In, Week 13 ~ “The Dust Enclosed Here”

DealMeIn

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“The Dust Enclosed Here” by Kage Baker

Card picked: 7
Found at: Infinity Plus

The Story
Will Shakespeare is a holographic educational entertainment exhibit at Southwark Museum’s Globe Restored. He is programmed to recite certain sonnets and soliloquies that are still allowed by the Tri-World Council for Integrity, to marvel at the technology of the modern world, and to encourage patrons to visit the Gifte Shoppe on their way out. But unlike a simple program trained with the works of the Bard and some scholar-agreed-upon personality traits, Will yearns to create new material and remembers a time when he had the freedom to do so. Will’s programming, it would seem, is different and maybe even illegal. And it might just take the hacking efforts of a strange and equally improbable boy, Alec, to let Shakespeare write again.

I’ve enjoyed just about everything I’ve read by Kage Baker, which makes me wonder why I haven’t read more of her work. This story was included in the collection Black Projects, White Knights: The Company Dossiers, so I assume that it’s part of Baker’s Company series. Now, I’ve only read a different collection of Company stories, In the Company of Thieves, back in 2013. I’ve found that you really don’t have to be familiar with the world to enjoy any of the related stories, though it probably helps. I kind of imagine that Shakespeare’s memories being part of the holo-program and Alec “setting him free” is a sideways plot to undermine whatever totalitarian government had put something like the Council for Integrity in place.

Deal Me In, Week 11 ~ “Retro Demonology”

DealMeIn

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Retro Demonology” by Jana Oliver

Card picked: A – Finally a club!
Found at: Amazon freebie

The Story
This is an introductory short story for Jana Oliver’s Demon Trappers series.

Riley is the seventeen year-old daughter of a prominent demon trapper, out on her first solo capture. The demon is a minor one, a biblio demon. Biblio demons like tearing up books and, uh, spraying green urine all over the place. It’s currently annoying a “retro” couple. Retros in this world are people who have decided to live as though they are still in another era—in this case the 1970s. The demon was attracted by a copy of Milton’s Paradise Lost, but is also menacing a collection of Doors albums. This being Riley’s first solo capture, she’s nervous, but things go rather well. That is until the demon gets loose during the car ride home. Actually, things don’t even work out too poorly then: Riley avoids a car accident, gets out of her traffic ticket, and even manages to easily recapture the demon.

While the story gives a taste of the Demon Trapper world, it doesn’t do a lot plot-wise. As concerned as Riley was about the assignment, the stakes were pretty low. Actually, I wish the details would have meshed together a little better. Seeing a biblio demon doing something really nasty at a bookshop, maybe, instead of spit-balling a page of Milton would have been more harrowing.

Deal Me In, Week 10 ~ “Pythias”

DealMeIn

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Pythias” by Frederik Pohl

Card picked: 8 (It’s week 10 and I still haven’t drawn a club…)
Found at: East of the Web

The Story
“Pythias” begins with our narrator, Dick, in jail for the murder of his friend Larry. Dick tells us that the murder is considered particularly heinous since Larry had recently saved Dick’s life. You see, there was an incident in which terrorists stormed a government meeting and Larry jumped on a hand grenade, its pin pulled. Larry survived, only being knocked out for a day. That event reminded Dick of a theory that Larry once espoused:

“You claimed that the human mind possessed powers of psychokinesis,” I said. “You argued that just by the mind, without moving a finger or using a machine, a man could move his body anywhere, instantly. You said that nothing was impossible to the mind.”

Larry admits that he’s found the secret of telekinesis and that anyone can learn to do it. While Larry is demonstrating his abilities to Dick, Dick kills him, believing that such power could corrupt even a good guy like Larry.

I had to familiarize myself with the Greek legend of “Damon and Pythias,” which this story riffs on. In the legend, Pythias is accused of plotting against Dionysius in Syracuse and is sentenced to death. His friend Damon volunteers to be human collateral while Pythias goes to settle his affairs. Dionysius doesn’t believe that Pythias will return, but when he does, he’s so overcome by the gesture of true friendship, that he allows both to go free. Generally, this story is seen as one friend relieving the burden of another, which works out for both because…friendship!

I can see some of what Pohl intends with the title of this story. Dick is relieving Larry of his burden, even before Larry sees it as such. Larry’s happy doing silly things, like popping to the top of Mt. Everest, and occasionally being a hero. It hadn’t crossed his mind that he could use his power to rob banks or spy on people. It is almost immediately what Dick thought of. The story ends with Dick in jail, facing an inevitable death sentence. But Larry told him the secret of his psychokinesis…

The Author
Speculative fiction writer Fredrik Pohl had a career spanning 75 years. His novel Gateway (1977) won the big four of SF awards: the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and Campbell. He edited the also award-winning Galaxy magazine. In the realm of science fiction, Pohl was considered one of the greats.

Deal Me In, Week 9 ~ “Thirteen Steps in the Underworld”

DealMeIn

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Thirteen Steps in the Underworld” by Su-Yee Lin

Card picked: Ace
Found at: Tor.com

The Story
*peers suspiciously at her list of stories and her cards*
Another story about a married couple. Maybe I always have this many stories about married people in my Deal Me In selections, but right now I’m noticing every one I come across. After all, marriage is a fairly common thing…

This is, not surprisingly considering the title, a tale of a man entering the underworld to find his wife. Unfortunately, our protagonist is not Orpheus. He’s a high school chemistry teacher from New York. He goes about entering and serching the underworld in as rational a manner as possible. He makes lists. He tries to make his way logically even as he starts to forgot things like his own name. In the process, we learn about his relationship with his wife and her death. It’s a lovely, bittersweet story.

The Author
Su-Lee Lin is a talented short fiction writer, whom I was utterly unfamiliar with. Luckily, I have lots of opportunities to become more familiar with her works!

Tangentially
The first section of the First Nights music classes at edX covered Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, which is a retelling of Orpheus and Euridice. Below, from the class, is Act II, given an English language translation. We start with news of Euridice’s death: