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Ain't Superstitious (Third Flatiron Anthologies) (Volume 13) Paperback – August 3, 2015
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The stories are for the most part incredibly imaginative without coming across as outlandish or boringly contrived. You believe hauntings can happen in unconventional places. It makes sense that a dead family member would be a constant, invisible mentor/guide. Details are being left out intentionally; I got pleasure out of learning them as I read, and I don't want to take that away from anyone else.
Favorite selections from the anthology:
- Kevin Lauderdale's humorous "James and the Prince of Darkness," about an upper class man who sells his soul to an insecure devil.
- E. E. King's gorgeously written "Pandora's Piñata," in which a frustrated witch seeks to disrupt an annoyingly peaceful village.
- Amy Aderman's vivid "Salt and Bone," a dark, mildly suspenseful, and somehow serene story about a flute-carving guard against evil spirits keeping watch on an ocean cliff.
Ain't Superstitious makes it easy to believe there is (good and bad) magic all around us.
As usual, this Third Flatiron Anthology offers the reader a wide range of F/SF short stories, but I am afraid that some of the fantasy in this compilation was way too dark for my taste. I should, of course, have expected dark fantasy in an anthology that was published with Hallowe'en approaching. I like a happy ending, and a few of the stories afforded me this.
The always-reliable Maureen Bowden obliged with an amusing tale of a reincarnated witch, her malodorous but faithful black cat familiar (who bears a distinct resemblance to Nanny Ogg's Greebo), the reincarnated Witchfinder General, a manifestation of the Underworld goddess Hecate, and an innocent but resourceful human girl. Innocence wins through, but in an unexpected way. Maureen Bowden is an imaginative storyteller and an excellent writer.
There is a surprisingly happy ending to E.E. King's "Pandora's Piñata"--a tale of the Day of the Dead. The festival is vividly drawn, with strong colors and characterization, and a clearly unfolding plot. A love story has gone wrong but is finally, and unexpectedly, put right. This is an interesting depiction of the blending of magic, human faithfulness and "coincidence."
"Sam, Sam, and the Demoness" by K.T. Katzmann: Great title, great story. Sam Rabinowitz the rabbi is constantly accompanied by his late grandfather Samuel, though he regards the ghost as something of a "spiritual albatross." Spectral Samuel, though, saves the day when a baby goes missing; he realizes that the culprit is Lilith, whose six-thousand-year-old biological clock is ticking. Samuel tricks the demon and retrieves the baby. A clever story.
Scary but not gruesome is "The Annual Scarecrow Festival" by John Paul Davies. This is quite a filmic tale, with its vividly described setting and characterization. There is a building sense of menace right from the beginning, a threat perceived by Caroline but not, unfortunately, by her rather dim and skeptical husband. These tourists have walked into an olde-worlde village that is not the stuff of dreams but of nightmares. I think this story could make a great horror film. To my mind, it could have done with a slightly creepier graphic.
"A Little Mischief" by Ken Altabef is a cat story with a difference: the cats of a neighborhood come together to defeat a demon bent on the slaughter of an innocent. Their summoner: an old bag lady who is more than she seems. The demon has her measure but is confident he can still get away with the murder he plans; he has not, however, reckoned on the summoning of the feline forces of the district. This tale is a fascinating riff on the ancient theme of maiden, mother, crone. And the cats enjoy themselves immensely as they tear into their prey--the miscalculating demon.
This anthology offers the reader a wide and interesting range of stories.