Subterranean Online, Spring and Fall – Rusch, Kowal, Valente, Buckell

We all remember how much I adored the YA special Summer issue of Subterranean Online, edited by Gwenda Bond, right? Well, I’ve finally checked in with the issue before that, as well as the most recent one, and while neither of them quite reached the heights of Summer, they both had some treasures to offer.

Subterranean, Spring Issue

“Show Trial” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch is a fascinating story about the gruelling task of the translators at the Nuremberg Trials, and the development of what was then a major innovation, that of extempore simultaneous translation. The story never shies away from what a dark and complex time this was, through the eyes of a man whose job it is to find and organise translators who have the skills and thick enough skin to deal with horrific testimonies, day and and day out. The magical element to the story is more integral than it seemed at first, but it’s hard to get away from the fact that the story feels like it could be told for the most part without that magical element.

“Water to Wine” by Mary Robinette Kowal is a gorgeous story about the future of winemaking, changing environmental issues, and family. It’s a love letter to small family businesses and vineyards everywhere, and has almost hedonistic descriptions of grapes and wine in amongst the narrative. I loved it to bits, though it suffered in a few spots from references to the shared world of the audio anthology it came from – without the larger context, I felt like there were aspects I was missing.

Subterranean, Fall Issue

Catherynne Valente’s “White Lines on a Green Field” absolutely blew me away. I loathe Coyote stories in general but I love sports stories and as it turns out, this is not only a fantastic American football story, it’s also a gorgeous, gorgeous Coyote story. It has a breathtaking pace to it, all jumbled up in teen emotions, nostalgic Americana and the kind of magic that happens when you’re young and everything feels possible. The protagonist is my favourite kind of sarky teenage girl with a sharp eye for what’s really going on, and the story is exciting, funny, sensuous, all those good things. I’ve been impressed with a lot of Valente’s work lately, especially her wonderful Russian fairytale-and-war novel Deathless, but this is my favourite thing she has ever written. So far.

I also enjoyed Tim Pratt’s “Antiquities and Tangibles,” with another ‘despite’ – in this case, DESPITE it being a magic shop story. I kept reading it, convinced I was going to bail out at any minute because it was a freaking magic shop story, and it wasn’t like I needed to see it through to the end, because magic shop stories always have stupid, predictable endings.

But this one navigated itself around all the inherent cliches of its type and was basically a sweet, simple story which shows that those other stories about someone getting a magic windfall and then stuffing up their life are basically not about magic being a bad things for people, but about people being bad for themselves.

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