Paula Guran

Books: Fantasy | Editor


Vampires: The Recent Undead (2010), Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations (2013), Magic City: Recent Spells (2014), Street Magicks (2016)

Vampires: The Recent Undead (2010) edited by Paula Guran


It has taken me an almost embarrassingly long time to finish this. How long you ask? I purchased it a couple months after it was published–that long ago.

The problem is I hit a point where I wasn't interested in a story, and instead of just skipping to the next story, I put the whole thing down. I know, rookie mistake. (But you'll see I made it several times, so I decided to just finish off these anthologies, and if I didn't like a story? SKIP.)

Let's see how many of these I remember, shall we?

"The Coldest Girl in Coldtown" by Holly Black

I read this one before, and purchased the book because of it. Except that I've not actually read the book.

Both of the guys laughed. She tried to laugh with them even though she knew she wasn't included in the joke. She was the joke. The trashy little slut. The girl who can be bought for a big fat wine cooler and three cranberry-and-vodkas.

And I don't know why, because to grab that quote I ended up starting to re-read the story. Which is not helpful when writing a review.

"Sisters" by Charles de Lint

This one I have read multiple times, and very much like.

I figure if the people writing the books and making the movies actually do have any firsthand experience with vampires, they're sugar-coating the information so that people don't freak out. If you're going to accept that they exist in the first place, it's much more comforting to believe that you're safe in the daylight, or that a cross or a fistful of garlic will keep them at bay.

About the only thing they do get right is that it takes a vamp to make a vamp. You do have to die from the bite and then rise again three days later. It's as easy as that. It's also the best time to kill a vamp—they're kind of like ragdolls, all loose and muddy-brained, for the first few hours.

Oh, and you do have to invite us into your house. If it's a public place, we can go in the same as anyone else.

What's that? No, that wasn't a slip of the tongue. I'm one, too. So while I like the TV show as much as the next person, and I know it's fiction, blond cheerleader types still make me twitch a little.

You want to read that, don't you?

"Zen and the Art of Vampirism" by Kelley Armstrong

Cultural assimilation is a lofty goal, but every minority needs a place to kick back with her own kind, a place to trade news and gossip that wouldn't interest anyone outside the group. For supernaturals in Toronto, that place is Miller's.

I remember that I liked this one.

"La Vampiresse" by Tanith Lee

"Madame Chaikassia."

"Ah," she said. "At last. One who knows how to say my name."

Naturally he knew. He had known from the day he saw her in the interview on TV. Rather as he had seen the actress Bette Davis in an interview years before and she had been asked how her first name was pronounced. So that he therefore knew it was not pronounced, as most persons now did, in the French way, Bett, but—for he had heard the actress herself reply—as Betty. And in the same way he knew the female being before him now did not pronounce her name as so many did: not Che´-kasee-ah, but Ch´-high-kazya.

This story was both lovely and terribly sad.

"The Ghost of Leadville" by Jeanne C. Stein

I have survived as a vampire for two hundred years. Living in big cities, mostly. Able to last as long as forty years in one guise—the latest a museum curator in New York. My specialty was early Americana. Convenient since I was born to missionary parents in the American west in 1809.

"Waste Land" by Stephen Dedman

I wish I knew what sort of vampires they all are. You can't trust the movies to get these things right. Russian vampires have purple faces. Mexican vampires have fleshless skulls. Albanian vampires are supposed to wear high-heeled shoes. Bulgarian vampires have one nostril, and they've been eaten inside by some sort of fungus, so they're solid but squishy the whole way through, and they don't cast shadows. German vampires, nosferatu, control rats and so bring the Black Death, as though I don't have enough to worry about already.

I particularly liked this bit, as the different vampire traditions are very different.

"Gentleman of the Old School" by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

"Everyone's looking for a new angle on the case, and the Center was a good place to start. That led me to the Count, and I only found out about the Count through the Donations Administrator's secretary, and that was over a very expensive lunch." She frowned. "I was told that the Count only visited the facilities twice: shortly after construction began and just before it was opened: The Vancouver Center for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Blood Disorders. Ms. Saunders said the Count's donation covered more than seventy percent of the cost of building and equipping the facility, and that he provides an annual grant for on-going research. That's got to be a lot of money. I was wondering if the Count would care to confirm the amount? Or discuss the body found on the roof of the Center two days ago?"

"No Matter Where You Go" by Tanya Huff

I really liked the Vicki Nelson stories when I first read them. Then I tried to jump into a later book, after not having read the books for years, and felt lost.

I might go back and start again and see how I feel about things.

"A Trick of the Dark" by Tina Rath

"What job finishes just at sunset?" Margaret jumped slightly.

"What a weird question, darling. Park keeper, I suppose." Something made her turn to look at her daughter. She was propped up against her pillows, looking, Margaret thought guiltily, about ten years old. She must keep remembering, she told herself fiercely, that Maddie was nineteen. This silly heart-thing, as she called it, was keeping her in bed for much longer than they ever thought it would, but it couldn't stop her growing up . . . she must listen to her, and talk to her like a grown-up.

"Conquistador de la Noche" by Carrie Vaughn

This is perhaps my favorite Carrie Vaughn short story. It is the story of how Rick-Ricardo de Avila–became a vampire.

Ricardo smiled. "I am a loyal subject of Spain and a child of God who has been saddled with a particularly troublesome burden."

Rick has always been a particularly enigmatic character in the Kitty books, and I loved this glimpse into how he was turned.

"Endless Night" by Barbara Roden

"Thank you so much for speaking with me. And for these journals, which have never seen the light of day. I'm honoured that you'd entrust them to me."

"That's quite all right." Emily Edwards smiled; a delighted smile, like a child surveying an unexpected and particularly wonderful present. "I don't receive very many visitors; and old people do like speaking about the past. No"—she held up a hand to stop him—"I am old; not elderly, not 'getting on,' nor any of the other euphemisms people use these days. When one has passed one's centenary, 'old' is the only word which applies."

"Dahlia Underground" by Charlaine Harris

I'd read this previously, and found Dahlia an interesting character, especially as I was getting tired of Sookie.

"The Belated Burial" by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Brylee did object to the casket, and also to the hole in the frozen earth. She did object, in a hesitant, deferential sort of way. But, as they say, her protestations fell upon deaf ears, even though Miss Josephine fully acknowledged that none of it was necessary.

"It will do you good," the vampire said, and, too, she said, "One day you'll understand, when you are older." And, she added, "There is far too little respect for tradition these days."

"Twilight States" by Albert Cowdrey

By then Pearl Harbor had happened and Daddy was signing papers so that Ned could volunteer for the Navy. "One less mouth to feed," remarked Mr. Warmth.

Ned vanished into the alternate dimension that people called The Service, and Mama locked up his room, saying it must be kept just as he left it or he'd never return alive.

"Crazy bitch," said Daddy, whose comments were usually terse and always predictable.

Night after night for weeks afterward, Milton opened his window, slipped out onto the cold balcony that connected the three bedrooms, lifted the latch on Ned's shutters with a kitchen knife, and silently raised the sash.

One at a time he took Ned's trophies, wrapped them in old newspapers, and put them out with the trash. He threw away Ned's magazines, books, and posters.

"To the Moment" by Nisi Shawl

This is a really, really, really disturbing story.

"Castle in the Desert: Anno Dracula 1977? by Kim Newman

Whatever relation you are to a person who was once married to one of your parents, Racquel Loring Ohlrig was to me. In Southern California, it's such a common family tie you'd think there'd be a neat little name for it, pre-father or potential-parent.

This was an amusing story.

"Vampires in the Lemon Grove" by Karen Russell

This story stuck with me, and has come back to mind every once in awhile, Which is, I believe, a sign of a good story.

"Vampires Anonymous" by Nancy Kilpatrick

This one was also amusing.

So, it was an uneven anthology for me, but there were some very good stories that are well-worth the price of the anthology.

Published by Prime Books

June 2015 | Rating: 7/10

Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations (2013) edited by Paula Guran

weird-detectives-recent-investigationsThis is a collection of short stories previously published elsewhere, so I'd already read several of these stories. But there were several I had not, and several of the ones I'd read before were well worth reading again.

This book has been sitting around for awhile, waiting to be read, primarily because I got it in trade paperback, and it's huge and heavy–just the kind of book I hate reading. Too heavy and too bulky for comfortable reading. But the stories drew me in and didn't let me go. (Though the book itself was why I lacked patience for stories I'd recently read or didn't catch my interest immediately.)

Initially, I was just going to flip through and read stories by authors I love, but then I ended up just reading straight through. Having no patience, if I story didn't immediately grab hold, I didn't finish it, and if I hadn't thoroughly enjoyed it the first time (or had read the story very recently), I didn't give it a second read.

"The Key" by Ilsa J. Blick was the story I ended up reading last, because I initially wasn't going to read all the stories. But since I'd read almost everything else, I flipped back to the start to read this one. This is a story centering on Jewish mysticism. One bit in particular caught my attention:

"We Jews are not like you Christians. We don't believe that Hashem makes everything better. Hashem can be harsh. Life is sometimes unfair. But we believe that Hashem gives us a fighting chance.

That's closer to my personal theology than mainstream Christianity, but not quite it.

"The Nightside, Needless to Say" by Simon R. Green was a story I'd previously read, but enjoyed it just as much the second time around. I particularly love the little side comments that spike Nightside stories (even though this wasn't a John Bloody Taylor story–it's about Larry Oblivion).

We found the big man sitting behind a desk in a surprisingly modest inner office. He was playing solitaire with tarot cards, and cheating.

"The Adakian Eagle" by Bradley Denton I'd read relatively recently, and skipped.

"Love Hurts" by Jim Butcher I'd read before, but mostly forgotten. I decided awhile ago I much prefer the Harry Dresden short stories to the books. Mostly because the short stories are all mystery, which is what I like best about the Harry stories.

"The Case of Death and Honey" by Neil Gaiman is the kind of story I generally dislike–a Sherlock Holmes story. But, it was Neil Gaiman, so I read it. I'm not going to change my mind about modern writers taking the reigns of Holmes and Watson, but this one wasn't too bad.

"Cryptic Coloration" by Elizabeth Bear was an odd story, though it was surprisingly dark and depressing. It did have amusing bits, however, was the story that started me reading straight through instead of reading only authors I particularly like. It's about both a mage hiding in plain sight as an English professor, and three bored young girls who really should have something better to do than moon after their English professor.

"The Necromancer's Apprentice" by Lillian Stewart Carl was interesting, but it felt like she was really trying to hard with all the period correct insults. It's a peek at the death of Lord Robert Dudley's wife–a death that caused a great deal of gossip because of his relationship with Elizabeth the First.

"The Case of the Stalking Shadow" by Joe R. Lansdale was a somewhat odd story. It's a tale of how a young girl found herself on the path to becoming a woman who investigated the supernatural. I quite liked the idea of the laser pointer.

"Hecate's Golden Eye" by P.N. Elrod is a story I'd read before. Jack Fleming helps his partner Charles Escott attempt to recover a stolen necklace. I can't say this is one of my favorite Jack Fleming stories, but it wasn't terrible.

"Defining Shadows" by Carrie Vaughn is set in Kitty's world, but is not a Kitty story, although Cormac makes an appearance. Instead it's a story centering on Detective Hardin of the Denver PD Paranatural Unit, who has interacted with Kitty in the past. I quite liked this story, and Detective Hardin, who is investigating half a body discovered in a shed. I vaguely remembered reading this previously, but enjoyed it again.

And I found the "bad guy" completely fascinating.

"Mortal Bait" by Richard Bowes was an odd story. Set in the 50s, the main character is a WWI vet, which is what drew me into the story. It was not, however, my thing.

"Star of David" by Patricia Briggs was a story that seemed to be set in Mercy Thompsons' world, but contains none of the characters from that series. This is another story I'd read previously, but one that I very much enjoyed re-reading. The main character is a werewolf who is estranged from his daughter. I really liked this story.

He thought you had to be bleeding someplace to hurt this badly.

Yeah. That's harsh and true.

"Imposters" by Sarah Monette was an interesting story I hadn't come across before. It's a world not quite ours, where magic is the norm, and where people are killing themselves, claiming they imposters in their own bodies. Part of it reminded me of Sergei Lukyanenko‘s Night Watch–the idea of ill-wishing being able to cause harm. Now I kinda want to reread the Night Watch series.

"Deal Breaker" by Justin Gustainis centers on his character Quincey Morris (occult investigator), not Stan Markowski (whose series I've been reading). I can't say much about the character of Quincey Morris, but I very much liked the solution to the problem presented.

I really liked it.

"Swing Shift" by Dana Cameron is the second thing I've read by Dana Cameron, and I guess I can now safely say that I simply don't like her writing. I really LOVE the idea of her vampires and werewolves, and I really want to like her stories, but I just don't.

"The Beast of Glamis" by William Meikle was another story where the tale was being related after the fact, to a group of listeners. I think this story wanted me to know more British history/Scottish than I do. I can guess as to what the story was alluding to, but my head for dates is really poor, so it's possible I'm wrong, which I found rather irritating.

"Signatures of the Dead" by Faith Hunter is a story I quite like, but had just re-read, so I skipped it.

"Like a Part of the Family" by Jonathan Maberry was… I'm still not sure how I feel about this. It's a werewolf story set in modern times. I think that perhaps the bit about the main character being a werewolf perhaps was supposed to come as a surprise, but since this was a collection of supernatural mysteries, it wasn't a surprise.

"Fox Tails" by Richard Parks is set in a mythical Japan, and I've read and enjoyed his stories before, but the mix of historical Japanese with noir detective just didn't work for me. Which is too bad because I liked the mystery, just not the tone of the main character.

"Death by Dahlia" by Charlaine Harris I skipped, because I've read it several times. It's actually not a Sookie short story, which means it's not annoying, but I didn't find it worth a third read.

"Sherlock Holmes and the Diving Bell" by Simon Clark I read only because I read the Neil Gaiman Sherlock Holmes story. I think if it wasn't a Holmes and Watson story I really would have enjoyed it, but as it was supposed to be a Holmes and Watson story… Well, Sherlock Holmes is my comfort reading, and has been since I was a teenager, so I find stories not written by Arthur Conan Doyle to be… unimpressive.

"See Me" by Tanya Huff is a Tony Foster story, and oddly, although I enjoyed her Vicki Nelson series, I've never gotten into any of her other characters. This wasn't bad, it just wasn't something I liked.

"The Maltese Unicorn" by Caitlín R. Kiernan I quickly gave up on. Possibly because she generally writes horror, and I typically have an irrational dislike of horror. Even though I know a lot of what I do like can be secondarily classified as horror.

Never claimed to be logical.

As I said, this contained a lot of stories I'd read previously, but they are for the most part good stories, so if you don't have the original anthologies, this would be well worth getting.

Publisher: Prime Books

August 2013 | Rating: 8/10

Magic City: Recent Spells (2014) edited by Paula Guran


"Street Wizard" by Simon R. Green I've read this story before, but enjoyed it just as much the second time around. The narrator is a street wizard, and walks us through a single night on the streets, walking his beat.

(L)ike everyone else she's got something to complain about; apparently she's not happy that people have stopped flushing baby alligators down their toilets. She misses them.

"Company?" I ask.

"Crunchy," she says.

There are lots of other lovely little bits (especially the demon who guards the Chinese Christian Church).

"Paranormal Romance" by Christopher Barzak is the story of a witch of makes love spells, but whose magic doesn't work for her. So her mother sets her up on a blind date.

When Myspace and Facebook came around, and her mother began commenting on photos Sheila had posted from some of her date nights with statements like, "He's a hottie!" and "Now that's a keeper!" Sheila had had to block her mother.

I really liked this story.

"Grand Central Park" by Delia Sherman starts like this:

When I was little, I used to wonder why the sidewalk trees had iron fences around them. Even a city kid could see they were pretty weedy looking trees. I wondered what they'd done to be caged up like that, and whether it might be dangerous to get too close to them.

With a start like that, how can you resist?

"Spellcaster 2.0" by Jonathan Maberry is another re-read, and I think I enjoyed it just as much the second time around as I did the first. What happens if you input every known magical spell into a computer database?

"Wallamelon" by Nisi Shawl was a sad story, of growing up and magic and friendship lost.

Sundays they went to the Detroit Institute of Arts. Not to church. "God aint in there. Only reason to go to church is so people don't talk bad about you,"

"-30-" by Caitlín R. Kiernan surprised me, as much of what she writes is horror. This is horror, but of a rather different type, about one way to get past writer's block.

"Seeing Eye" by Patricia Briggs is another story I'd read before, and actually recently re-read, because it stuck in my mind.

"Stone Man" by Nancy Kress is about an undiscovered magician, and the problems that come with his newly discovered skills. It's also a sad tale about kids who are abandoned and unloved, for any of many reasons.

"In the Stacks" by Scott Lynch is a tale about magical libraries and librarians.

Inappropriate Levity Bronzeclaw, "Lev" to everyone at the university. Lev's people, dour and dutiful, gave their adolescents names based on perceived character flaws, so the wayward youths would supposedly dwell upon their correction until granted more honorable adult names.

Delightful! (OOK!)

"A Voice Like a Hole" by Catherynne M. Valente was another story about lost and abandoned children. I found it very sad.

"The Arcane Art of Misdirection" by Carrie Vaughn was set in her existing world, with a character who has made brief appearances in Kitty's world, but requires no knowledge of that world or the characters therein. (You're quite into the story before you realize you've met one of the characters in the Kitty books, so you lose nothing if you haven't them.)

"Thief of Precious Things" by A.C. Wise was an odd tale, about a fox girl, stealing for? getting revenge upon? the crow men.

"The Land of Heart's Desire" by Holly Black is a story of humans and faerie living together, perhaps uneasily. I felt like I was missing something in this story.

"Snake Charmer" by Amanda Downum is the story of the death of a dragon. Of revenge for the death of a loved one. In this story I also felt like I was missing something–not a big something, but something.

"The Slaughtered Lamb" by Elizabeth Bear was a fun story, of a queen trying to make it in a magical world.

"The Woman Who Walked with Dogs" by Mary Rosenblum wasn't technically a depressing story, but it still made me depressed–a girl whose mother is working working working to try and give her child a better life, and doing everything she can to keep her from trouble. I did, however, love the idea of what happens in houses at night being very different from what you see during the day.

"Words" by Angela Slatter was an amusing and fun story, about which I can't really tell you anything without giving everything away.

"Dog Boys" by Charles de Lint was one I quite liked, but then I love Charles de Lint's stories. A boy is trying to survive in a new school, in a new town. Depsite trying to keep his head down and himself out of trouble, he gets involved, and steps into trouble far worse than he could have guessed.

"Alchemy" by Lucy Sussex was a lovely and sad story, about alchemy and change.

"Curses" by Jim Butcher is a story I'd read before, and reminded me why I used to love his stories so much. Harry Dresden is called upon to do something about the curse on the Chicago Cubs. It's a fun story.

"De la Tierra" by Emma Bull is an odd story, about a magical assassin. Except he's not an assassin by his own choice.

I quite liked it.

"Stray Magic" by Diana Peterfreund is another story I'd read before. The main characters are a girl who volunteers in a no-kill shelter and an abandoned dog.

"Kabu Kabu" by Nnedi Okorafor is the story of a taxi ride to O'Hare airport. I've read stories by Nnedi Okorafor and now I'm wondering why I haven't read more.

"Pearlywhite" by Mark Laidlaw & John Shirley is another story about street children. It's dark, but didn't feel as depressing as some of the other stories about unloved and abandoned children.

All in all this is a marvelous collection, that I highly recommend.

Published by Prime Books

July 2014 | Rating: 8.5/10

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.

"Freewheeling" by Charles de Lint this is a story I'd read several times previously, in other anthologies. It is a good story, but sad.

"A Year and a Day in Old Theradane" by Scott Lynch is a story I got hung up on. I like Scott Lynch, but had a difficult time getting into this story.

"Shouldn't I have a hangover?"

"I took it while you slept," said Ivovandas. "I have a collection of bottled maladies. Your hangover was due to be the stuff of legends. Here be dragons! And by ‘here,' I mean directly behind your eyeballs, probably for the rest of the week. I'll find another head to slip it into, someday. Possibly I'll let you have it back if you fail 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.

"Socks" by Delia Sherman is the story of a girl with an affliction who finds her voice.

"Painted Birds and Shivered Bones" by Kat Howard is about a werebird. Or a cursed man. Or a woman recovering herself.

Some days were good days, days when Maeve could walk through her life and not be aware of any of the adjustments she performed to make it livable.

"The Goldfish Pond and Other Stories" by Neil Gaiman is… well… it's a Neil Gaiman story.

"One-Eyed Jack and the Suicide King" by Elizabeth Bear this one I read twice and still was unsure about.

"Street Worm" by Nisi Shawl is a story of a girl–a teen whose parents think she's seeing things that aren't there.

"A Water Matter" by Jay Lake I mostly skimmed.

"Last Call" by Jim Butcher is another Dresden files short story. It was fine.

"Bridle" by Caitlín R. Kiernan I didn't bother to read, since I don't like her writing (she writes horror, which I dislike; It's nothing personal).

"The Last Triangle" by Jeffrey Ford is a story I started and then got distracted. It's actually an interesting story about magic and science–or rather geometry.

"The Last Triangle is an equilateral triangle; all the sides are equal," she said.

I failed math every year in high school, so I just nodded.

"Working for the God of the Love of Money" by Kaaron Warren I mostly skimmed; it was darker and sadder than I wanted to read.

"Hello, Moto" by Nnedi Okorafor is about science and witchcraft.

"The Spirit of the Thing: A Nightside Story" by Simon R. Green is a John Taylor story I'd read previously, but still enjoyed.

They didn't know anything. They hadn't seen anything, because they didn't come to a bar like this to take an interest in other people's problems.

"A Night in Electric Squidland" by Sarah Monette I surprised myself by enjoying. Possibly because it was a police procedural of sorts, I found myself wanting to read more about the characters.

Mick, observing the pretty young man with the eye of an expert, saw that he was not as young as he was trying to appear, and he would be prettier if he admitted it.

"Speechless in Seattle" by Lisa Silverthorne started and didn't finish.

"Palimpsest" by Catherynne M. Valente started and then realized that I generally dislike her short stories, so skipped.

"Ash" by John Shirley was not for me.

"In Our Block" by R. A. Lafferty was an odd and amusing story.

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

Published by Prime Books

January 2017 | Rating: 7/10