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Winter Well: Speculative Novellas About Older Women

por Kay T. Holt (Editor)

Outros autores: Anna Caro (Contribuidor), M. Fenn (Contribuidor), Marissa James (Contribuidor), Minerva Zimmerman (Contribuidor)

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2810838,104 (3.37)12
Disaster upon catastrophe forces an unlucky engineer to become someone more adventuresome. A tech-savvy private investigator stalks organ traffickers across a toxic cityscape. International hostilities on an alien planet turn a human architect into a dogged emissary for peace. Enslaved by a monstrous lord, a sage seeks answers in the stars and finds more... desirable problems. Older women take center stage in these four novellas. They may be wives, mothers, wise women or healers, but those archetypes are not their defining characteristics. Their motivations are their own, and they're not interested in living in the background of someone else's epic yarn. TABLE OF CONTENTS: M. Fenn - "To The Edges" Minerva Zimmerman - "Copper" Anna Caro - "This Other World" Marissa James - "The Second Wife" Cover art copyright 1985 "Self Portrait Age 90" by Judith Mason (public domain)… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 10 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
My favorite was the third story. Best story with an autistic protagonist I've ever read, to be honest. ( )
  dreamweaversunited | Apr 27, 2020 |
I bought this ebook because I wanted to read stories about older women. I wanted stories that deal with the aging process and the way society treats older women. For the most part, I didn't get that. It isn't enough to tell me your character is older unless you show me, too.

The stand-out story, for me, was "This Other World." It was very much about aging and changing, and the ways our bodies and minds do both.

Like most things published by Crossed Genres, the stories are populated by a variety of diverse characters. That's something I very much enjoy. I enjoyed all four stories in this book, to varying degrees, but would have rated it higher had it given me more of what it advertised. Still, I'm glad I read it. ( )
  tldegray | Sep 21, 2018 |
Esta crítica foi escrita no âmbito dos Primeiros Críticos do LibraryThing.
I received an electronic copy of this book through Early Reviewers.

This anthology contains four novellas about older women. I had had my eye on this one, and was pleased to see it on Early Reviewers, and even more so to receive a copy. Like many anthologies, however, it was something of a mixed bag.

This review will contain SPOILERS.

The first novella, "To the Edges" by M. Fenn, takes place in a near future dystopian USA plagued by frequent terrorist attacks and a shrunk-to-zero government budget. When our protagonist Zed gets laid off, she and her husband leave Chicago to follow Zed's sister, who left to find their uncle, living off the grid on a farm in Iowa. They do, things happen, and at the end of the story, Zed decides that rural community-building provides the alternative to the broken-down city world.

This story didn't really work for me. I couldn't help but feel that this is great and a viable solution if one has the ability to travel and a rich uncle who has acquired a vast amount of land when the county government was forced to sell it, but what about the people without that level of privilege? The only we see are travelers who were able-bodied enough to travel from the Southwest, whom Zed accepts into the community, and local bandits from the dead town who are treated as a menace to be exterminated (even before their violence leads to the death of a character close to Zed)- while reading, it was hard for me to shake the fact that if I was in this setting, I would be more likely to be in the position of the bandits with nothing than the travelers _or_ Zed's family.

The second novella was "Copper" by Minerva Zimmerman, is cyberpunk in a near-future setting which starts out with the protagonist Meredith's uterus being stolen from cryogenic storage. Meredith, an independent contractor who makes judgments on potential insurance fraud cases- automating her decisions with computer scripts- teams up with a younger police officer, Wyatt, who has computer skills of his own from a shady past.

This story has a lot of twists and subplots, not all of which worked for me- it took me a re-read to figure out what exactly was going on, and I'm still not sure I have it right. The business with the stolen uterus turned out to be a red herring, and the focus of the story ended up being Wyatt's relationship with his family, who take advantage of poor women and get rich through insurance fraud and off-the-books uterus implantation; the reason why surgically extracting and cryogenically freezing one's uterus has become commonplace is never really explained- it seems less likely than development of artificial uteri or better fertility treatments.

The computer technology didn't ring true to me either; there are insecure kitchen devices on networks alongside sophisticated AI personal assistants controlled by voice alongside a secret hacker cabal that tattoos its members with liquid-filled nanotubing and biochips that broadcast the wearer's DNA as part of authentication into special access on any networks the group "enhances"- the first is a current problem that seems like it will be solved as protocol design advances; the second seems plausible given that they are not true AI, if inefficient due to the voice interface; the third seems to belong to a different technological era entirely from the other two.

The third novella was "This Other World" by Anna Caro, and it was by far and away my favorite of the four. Vonika and her wife Tehya are architects living in the country of Temia on the planet Kami. Vonika is a human who emigrated from Earth, and Tehya is Kamish. It is the Kamish custom for people of a certain age to undergo a ceremony known as Ha-Ran, which promotes psychic bonding among the elders of the society as their lives transition from being individualistic to community-centered, and both Vonika and Tehya are at that age- Tehya is pressing Vonika in that direction, but Vonika has reservations. But as Temia stands on the brink of war with its neighbor, Makka, Vonika begins having visions of other lives, other places- is she entering Ha-Ran early, and what does it mean that the visions seem to be exclusively visions of Makka?

Though I figured out the who and why of the mystery fairly early on, I was engaged with the characters and the details of Kamish and Temian life and occasionally future Earth that were slowly revealed, and I remained somewhat uncertain how things were going to work out in the end. Third person present-tense is a writing style that usually bothers me enough to knock me out of a story, but not in this case- I enjoyed this story and will definitely keep an eye out for more of Caro's work.

The last novella in the collection is "The Second Wife" by Marissa James. This is fantasy, set in a created setting that borrows some elements from Aztec culture and invents others; the protagonist Lady Akam is marked as a sorceress by her jaguar-spotted skin, and thus destined to be the second wife of a lord, who provides him sorcery as a first wife is supposed to provide him with heirs. The story opens as she is married to her fourth husband, Tupil, who killed Akam's previous husband in front of her.

Tupil is violent, arrogant, and ambitious, intent on becoming the most powerful Lord in the region, and when a trade delegation comes from a southern nation asking for sorcery to protect them from harm along the long route from south to north, Tupil sees only his potential gain, ignoring Akam's protest that it is beyond her limits. Things are complicated by a young man with a fierce soul who accompanies the trade delegation- a man with female deer as the representation of his spirit, and magic, a power that only occurs among women, and when Tupil's first wife, Yuknilan, appears set to give birth on the day of the red star, an event that foretells death- seemingly the death of the child or the mother.

The tone and plot of this novella reminded me a great deal of the stories in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword and Sorceress anthology series I read when I was younger, where a woman meets the Right Man and finds strength in alliance with him to overcome the Wrong Man, who has treated her poorly and proves to be evil incarnate. The setting clearly takes inspiration from Aztec culture, or at least the popular conception of such, with the blood sacrifice, jade, jaguars, quetzal feathers, and the calendar, but the names are all made up, and the change for blood sacrifice to be about magical power rather than for religious purposes make me assume it is a created setting and not supposed to be particularly historical.

The southerner Ikich Kan is an intersex person, and while I am glad to finally see that a story about sex-specific magic recognize someone outside the binary, the "revelation" scene where (trigger warning) Akam rips his clothes off with magic to see what his body looks like really made me cringe:

"Ikich Kan laughed again.

It was the moment she needed; he was unguarded in his arrogance so she sent her magic at him, a force of serpentine tendrils twisting and curling, tearing at his cloak to reveal a flat, male chest, then probing into the substance of his shade, into his mind and heartbeat and unflinchingly between his legs. Ikich Kan cried out a moment too late and sought to fend her off but his attempt was that of a helpless, simple man in the face of magic. Not a sorceress.

She held him that way for a moment longer than necessary, considering the maddened race of his mind as he scrambled for a way out, rather than surrendering to panic or terror. And yet her probe of his sex produced more questions than answers.

She let go and he leapt from the bench, backing like a frightened animal from the dais and leaning hard against the wall.

'What are you?' she asked evenly, and her mind raced with the possibilities of otherworld creatures, demons- a sorceress's trick or curse laid on him.

'How dare you work your magic on me,' he growled, voice shaky as he retreated to a corner. He rubbed his arms compulsively, as though the feel of her magic still remained in his flesh."

Ikich Kan has come seeking Akam to undo what he feels is a curse on his body, but she comes to the conclusion that he is as the gods intended him, and he accepts that judgment seemingly without further interior conflict. There were parts of the story I liked, such as Yuknilan's friendship and acceptance of Akam rather than the more cliche jealousy or conflict between women, but the quoted scene really put me off.

Despite my reservations and problems with three of the stories, the Caro novella is one I can see myself coming back to and re-reading in the future, and I am glad to see Crossed Genres releasing anthologies with themes like this- I will definitely keep an eye on their future publications. ( )
  sandstone78 | Jul 31, 2013 |
Esta crítica foi escrita no âmbito dos Primeiros Críticos do LibraryThing.
I felt some of these novellas were stronger than others.

'To The Edges' left me dissatisfied. As a novella it tried to embrace more themes than the format could allow, so it wasn't quite a story about 'deciding to leave your old life', nor 'a perilous escape from a disintigrating city to the countryside', nor 'starting a new life on the countryside'. It was a piece of each and not enough of any, with some odd dream-visions thrown in. It felt like an unfinished novel.

'Copper' was full on cyberpunk. I've read some William Gibson, but overall it's not a genre I'm very familiar with, and I struggled with some of the world building. Again, a longer format might have done it more favours, but at the end of the day it's reference points were always going to go over my head.

'The Other World' was far and away my favourite of the collection. For a start, it's nice to so a character on the autistic spectrum who's not merely a foil for the main character but the main character herself, who's not a savant, who's not any ruder than anyone else, and who's not introduced and defined by her ASD any more than her gender or sexuality or status as an alien. 'The Other World' was a really neat, thorough exploration of alienation both within a person's own society and as an outsider in another, and how people respond to that. The worldbuilding was solid and the plot was taut. Definitely looking out for more stuff by Anna Caro.

I also enjoyed 'The Second Wife'. I appreciated most of the worldbuilding, but some aspects of the plot bothered me. I've never been a big fan of magic only working for one gender, for the reasons the novella tries to explore - gender isn't a binary system. However, the characterisation of the secondary characters was nice and the relationships between the women were warmly written.

Overall, I enjoyed this anthology, but it hasn't wowed me was some of the other Crossed Genre collections have, and only one story really stood out to me as the work of a writer worth reading more of. ( )
1 vote MinaKelly | Jul 9, 2013 |
Esta crítica foi escrita no âmbito dos Primeiros Críticos do LibraryThing.
This is an absorbing collection. Even though I didn't have time to read, I would dip into it, and get sucked in for a while. Plots are convoluted, some are about dystopias, tackling issues of oppression and feminism. Not preachy though. Suspenseful, adventurous. ( )
  jaelquinn | Jun 2, 2013 |
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Nome do autorPapelTipo de autorObra?Estado
Holt, Kay T.Editorautor principaltodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Caro, AnnaContribuidorautor secundáriotodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Fenn, M.Contribuidorautor secundáriotodas as ediçõesconfirmado
James, MarissaContribuidorautor secundáriotodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Zimmerman, MinervaContribuidorautor secundáriotodas as ediçõesconfirmado
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Disaster upon catastrophe forces an unlucky engineer to become someone more adventuresome. A tech-savvy private investigator stalks organ traffickers across a toxic cityscape. International hostilities on an alien planet turn a human architect into a dogged emissary for peace. Enslaved by a monstrous lord, a sage seeks answers in the stars and finds more... desirable problems. Older women take center stage in these four novellas. They may be wives, mothers, wise women or healers, but those archetypes are not their defining characteristics. Their motivations are their own, and they're not interested in living in the background of someone else's epic yarn. TABLE OF CONTENTS: M. Fenn - "To The Edges" Minerva Zimmerman - "Copper" Anna Caro - "This Other World" Marissa James - "The Second Wife" Cover art copyright 1985 "Self Portrait Age 90" by Judith Mason (public domain)

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