Ellen Klages

Books: Fantasy | Queer

Passing Strange (2017)


Year's Best Fantasy 4 (2004), Firebirds Rising (2006), The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales (2007), Firebirds Soaring (2009),  Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron (2012), Street Magicks (2016)

Passing Strange (2017)

Passing StrangeSet in San Francisco in 1940.

Haskel is an artist who makes her living doing pulp covers. She and her friends live on the edge of polite society, either because they aren't white or because of their sexuality, but they are found family.

"Ah, Jack. You failed the three-garment test with a perfect zero, not a single piece of women's clothing on you."

A girl in a skirt and sweater reached for her beer and looked puzzled. "Huh?"

"The law says women can't dress like men. If the cops check, and you're wearing three bits of ladies' duds, you're in the clear."

And I just discovered a recording of Gladys Bentley singing and playing piano on "You Bet Your Life."

This is an interesting story, an historical, that opens and closes with bits in modern times. The fantasy world lives underneath and alongside our world.

Strangely, I found the historical bits more satisfying than the fantasy bits; there was more I wanted to know about how magic worked, but magic instead was something that existed, hidden, but wasn't anything we were allowed to understand.


Rating: 6.5/10


Year's Best Fantasy 4 (2004) edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer

Year's Best Fantasy 4

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Firebirds Rising (2006) edited by Sharyn November

This is a collection of fantasy, urban fantasy (minus the boinking) and science fiction. Interestingly, I didn't mind most of the science fiction too much, though they weren't my favorite stories in the collection. 

Published by Firebird

Rating: 7/10

The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales (2007) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

I love short stories. Aside from collections by Charles de Lint, I best love anthologies by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling best. Their books are like comfort food, and I save them up for when I'm sick or feeling low.

In the same vein as The Green Man and The Faerie Reel, Datlow and Windling have this time collected stories about tricksters, and they've got some of my favorite authors in this collection: Charles de Lint, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Ellen Kushner. As usual, they manage to collect stories by some of my favorite story tellers.

For those who are Charles de Lint fans, "Crow Roads" is not a Newford tale, but an excellent story nevertheless, of a girl dreaming to escape her small, restrictive life. There is little more I can cay, other than as expected, this was an excellent story.

As with many of her stories, Nina Kiriki Hoffman's "The Listeners" is a dark at times, but it's the dark of the truths from which we all try to hide, rather than from imaginary monsters. And of course being a trickster tale, all's well that ends well.

I didn't recognize "Honored Guest" as an Ellen Kushner story initially, until the dialog started to feel familiar and the name Campion came up. Then I belatedly realized that was the Ellen Kushner story. In a way, almost wish I hadn't recognized the name, because part of me felt the story was stronger for not being tied to that world.

But only a very small part of me.

Besides those there, all the stories in this collection were good, and most were excellent. I especially enjoyed "The Fiddler of Bayou Teche" by Delia Sherman, which is somewhat of a deal with the devil story, except it's not really the devil, though for all he does, he may as well be acting in the devil's stead.

Another deal with the Devil story was Holly Black's "A Reversal of Fortune." Despite the gross out bits (considering eating candy all day is enough to make me feel ill), was an excellent story.

Some other favorites were Richard Bowes' "A Tale for Short Days" where a trickster comes back again and again to revisit one family. "Black Rock Blues" by Will Shetterly was one story where the trickster was the main character who did the outwitting rather than being outwitted, as was Elizabeth E. Wein's "Always the Same Story."

Another favorite was "The Constable of Abal" by Kelly Link. The story ranged near and far and I was never quite sure where it was going, but that was ok because I was glad to be along for the ride.

If like short story collections, or trickster tales, then you will want to read The Coyote Road. It has stories from many of my favorite writers, and as with all their collections, I was delighted to discover new authors for whom I'll be on the lookout.

Published by Viking

Rating: 9/10

Firebirds Soaring (2009) edited by Sharyn November

Published by Firebird

Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron (2012) edited by Jonathan Strahan

This is a lovely YA anthology, with some amazing stories by some of my favorite authors. I didn't love all the stories, but none of them were bad. The theme is young witches coming of age, but the stories are far greater than that.

Ellen Klages' story "The Education of a Witch" is of a little girl who sees Snow White and falls in love with Maleficent. It's actually rather disturbing.

Published by Random House

Rating: 9/10

Street Magicks (2016) edited by Paula Guran

Street MagicksI believe it took me less than a year to finish this anthology. Hopefully this is a new trend for me.

"Caligo Lane" by Ellen Klages is a story I ended up re-reading when I picked the anthology back up. It is beautiful and marvelous and very sad.

When geography or politics makes travel or escape impossible, she is the last resort. Each life saved is a mitzvah.

Once, when she was young and in a temper, she crumpled one into a ball and threw it across the room, muttering curses. A man in Norway found himself in an unnamed desert, confused and over-dressed. His journey did not end well.

An interesting collection, although there were a lot of stories that were not for me.

Published by Prime Books

Rating: 7/10