Behind the Sun, Above the Moon – various

“In the beginning, before Humans had claimed the stars as their own, they held hands as they watched lights streak across the sky and called it Magic.”

This is a collection of nine short sci-fi stories, each with an LGBTQ slant. I’ve always thought, given the level of fantastical imagination in the genre, it feels odd to stick to ‘he’ and ‘she’ and things that were considered ‘normal’ 50 years ago o.O So yes, we have a princess marrying not just one but two women, a non-binary witch falling for a star, and pronouns from ‘they’ to ‘xie’.

Each story does come with content warnings, for violence or body horror, etc. To be honest, the BDSM and web-cam prostitution-y stuff added very little for me to the respective stories (Weave the DarkLost/Found), and I found these the weakest in the collection probably because of that. Still, the magic system in Weave the Dark was intriguing.

For the rest, my only issue was the usual one with a good short story: I want more! There are so many fascinating worlds into which we are giving the briefest of tantalising glimpses. I could easily see longer works in the universes of Ink and Stars – where tattoos are used as a form of magic – or From Dusk to Dying Sun, which has such a great atmosphere – a bit X-Files, a lot weird, somehow quite chilling. Twice-Spent Comet has a different take on a futuristic penal system, with inmates used to mine asteroids. The plot didn’t grab me quite as much as the world-building, however, and is the first of several tales here that is about a relationship with a star – as in, a celestial being, not a famous person!

Awry with Dandelions is almost more fantasy than sci-fi, and was a nice change of pace. The main character finds themselves linked to another person, a continent away, every night and sometimes during the day, but only for 30 seconds or so at a time – enough to be horribly disruptive but not long enough to do anything useful with.

A few stories reminded me of other things. Horologium updates a classic – I won’t spoil it! – while Death Marked could almost have been a (Iain M Banks) Culture story (which is high praise!).

Overall, this is a strong collection of short work. Not all of them appealed to me as much as the rest, but that’s the beauty of short stories – there’s something for everyone! And absolutely no shortage of fascinating ideas here, well told.

Contents:

  1. Twice-Spent Comet – Ziggy Schutz
  2. From Dusk to Dying Sun – Paige S Allen
  3. Lost/Found – Brooklyn Ray
  4. Awry with Dandelions – J S Fields
  5. The Far Touch – S R Jones
  6. Ink and Stars – Alex Harrow
  7. Horologium – Emmett Nahil
  8. Death Marked – Sara Codair
  9. Weave the Dark, Weave the Light – Anna Zabo

NetGalley eARC: 329 pages / 9 short stories
First published: 17 Feb 2020
Series: none
Read from 10th-16th February 2020

My rating: 8/10

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