Michaeline: “The Flowers of Vashnoi” (discussion and spoilers in the comments)

The Vorkosigan butterbugs in their radbug incarnation, glowing with radiation markers on their backs.

Lois McMaster Bujold’s “The Flowers of Vashnoi” came out on May 17, 2018! I’m not really a bug person, but boy, Ekaterin knows how to make a glorious bug! Art, science and passion is a winning combination for this heroine! (Image via Goodreads)

It has been a great month for short fiction for me. I started with Bujold’s latest novella, “The Flowers of Vashnoi” (Amazon), and then thanks to filkferengi’s comments last week, I discovered a couple of new short fiction magazines.

I’ve already bought and read issues 7 and 8 of Heart’s Kiss, a relatively new magazine of romance stories that is available on Kindle (and I bought it from amazon.co.jp, so it’s internationally available) and in print. Their editorial board changed with issue 7 (February 2018), and it turns out that one of our Eight Ladies, Jeanne, knows one of the editors through the RWA Golden Heart awards program.

The stories are a lot of fun – exactly the kind of short, happy fiction I enjoy best. Most of them (all of them?) are liberally laced with magic and fantasy; one series has a cupid-in-training, and a different series is full-on Outlander-style timeslip/historical fantasy. The stand-alone stories stand alone, and have been very satisfying.

I will put in one caveat: if typos destroy the experience for you, you might want to proceed with caution. I’m not the most vigilant proofreader in the world, and even I caught several words that were misspelled or small editing errors. There’s one author in the series who uses the word “fisting” to mean “grasping” . . . and I don’t want to see “fisting” anywhere near my sexy, romantic fiction, even if it’s not “that” kind of activity. Not my cup of kink!

I just mention this because I know a lot of people who are extremely annoyed by typos; I still enjoyed the series, and am looking forward to part three (even though I just know she’s going to slip in “fisting” the sheets or clothing in some way or another!).

To tell the truth, the errors in editing just add a certain gritty, blast-from-the-past flavor to the magazine; it brings me back to a time when it was quite common to pick up a magazine and find a nice short fiction piece in it – or a girl could go down to the drugstore, and pick from six different romance comics. In order to cultivate a Dorothy Parker or a James Thurber, we need fields and fields of these kinds of magazines – and the internet e-reading revolution can provide those fertile grounds. I’m glad to have found Heart’s Kiss.

Which brings me back to today’s main theme: did you get a chance to read “The Flowers of Vashnoi”? What did you take away? Like so many Bujold books, the story is great while you are reading it, improves when you think about it, and rewards re-reading. The whole icing on the cake is when you get to discuss the many issues and techniques with like-minded readers. Because even though we may be like-minded in enjoying a good yarn, we all bring different interpretations and spins to the table when we have time to discuss a shared story.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Michaeline: Lots of Ideas and No Plot

Pre-dawn, March 2, 2018. Outside my kitchen window, on the day after the snow. (Photo by E.M. Duskova)

It’s one of those days, when my head is swirling with ideas, but there’s no obvious (or even non-obvious) plot line. So, I’ll just lay them out, one-by-one. Maybe one of them will lead to a plot line for you.

ALMANAC: Terrible snow in northern Japan, Britain and the east coast of the United States. They have been killer storms, in that at least one person has died. The story of one of the deaths in Hokkaido is a peculiar one. An NHK television reporter on his day off was driving in the forest, hunting deer, according to the Mainichi Shimbun. Three roadside assistant workers set off to rescue him after he got caught in the blizzard, but both of their trucks got stuck. They called for a snow plow, but it didn’t arrive, so one of the workers left to the car to check his surroundings, and he got lost in the snow and died. Snow is no joke, folks. If your hero and heroine are stuck in a snowed-in cabin, don’t send them out to look for help unless they’ve got a long rope tied to the front door. And if they are arguing in a car that drives into the ditch? Make sure they clear the exhaust pipe so they don’t get carbon monoxide poisoning. Unless, of course, they want an unhappy ending.

ALMANAC, PART 2: Cheerful news! Today is the Doll Festival of Japan. Families with young girls typically set up a diorama (that can range in size from a small cabinet to a 5-foot high staircase of decoration) depicting an imperial wedding in the Heian era. The full set has all the props – the bride’s sewing kit and rice cooker, all the way up through the Ministers of the Left and Right, the musicians and three hand-maidens, all topped by the bride and groom on the top tier. It’s like Barbie on steroids, with a good dose of historical drama. Traditionally, children could play with the dolls, but these days, the fancy sets are upwards of $1500, and for display only. The dolls must be promptly put away tomorrow, or superstition says the girls in the family will have trouble finding marriage.

RANDOM JAPANESE IMPERIAL TRIVIA: Murasaki Shikibu wrote The Tale of Genji during her time in the Japanese imperial court during the Heian period (she wrote between 1000 and 1012). According to Wikipedia, Continue reading