Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Kaleidoscope edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios

Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios is a crowd-funded anthology that does what it says in the tag line.

It's an incredibly strong anthology, filled with thoughtful and creative stories. The stories cover a wide range of diverse characters, with diveristy stemming from race, gender, chronic/mental illness and disability. I was pleasantly surprised to see several stories deal with characters who fit into more than one of those labels. I also found it awesome that most of the stories weren't about being black/queer/sick/etc but had those aspects as background to the main plot, generally a fantastical one (since it is an SFF anthology).

It's really hard to pick favourites in this collection. Although I didn't love the stories equally, there weren't any duds. (The one I talk about disliking below was because of a theme I'm sick of, not because there was anything wrong with the story per se.) Really, I liked all of them. However, some that stood out to me more than the others were: "Cookie Cutter Superhero" by Tansy Rayner Roberts, which was just awesome and needs a novel set in its universe; "Signature" by Faith Mudge, which was clever, amusing and ultimately happy-making; "Careful Magic" by Karen Healey about a magical school and a girl dealing with being an outsider for her eccentricities; and "Double Time" by John Chu, which was about ice-skating and having a pushy parent.

Most of the stories, I found, were reasonably upbeat but the anthology was punctuated with a few sadder stories. For example "The Legend Trap" by Sean Williams and "Krishna Blue" by Shveta Thakrar both have ambiguous and not entirely happy endings. 

It's hard not to comment on all the stories now, but I've already done that below as I usually do with anthologies and collections. Kaleidoscope is an excellent anthology and I strongly recommend it to everyone. If you haven't already picked up a copy, do so!

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Cookie Cutter Superhero | Tansy Rayner Roberts — A very strong start to the anthology. A girl with one hand is chosen to join a superhero team. It touches on the lack of female super heroes and deals with the main character’s fear that if the superhero machine “fixes” her, then what does that do to her sense of identity? What would then happen to her when she stopped being a superhero (because they have a limited tenure) and went back to being normal? 

The Seventh Day of the Seventh Moon | Ken Liu — A portmanteau of two teenage girls in love and a Chinese Fairytale, with a twist on the take of the Fairytale's ending (I think, I'll have to google it later)

The Legend Trap | Sean Williams — Set in the Twinmaker universe and an odd story. It deals with the idea of d-mat teleportation sending people to a parallel universe and some of the consequences of that. I say odd mainly because of the ambiguous ending.

End of Service | Gabriela Lee — A story about the daughter of an overseas worker from the Philippines, struggling to come to terms with her mother's work choices. And of course with a speculative twist.

Chupacabra's Song | Jim C. Hines — A girl discovers chupacabras, magic and cruelty.

The Day the God Died | Alena McNamara — A short story about a character dealing with some heavy issues and a series of encounters with a dying old god.

Signature | Faith Mudge — I loved this story! It was clever and lovely and funny. Bookshops, supernatural contracts and an especially diverse cast.

The Lovely Duckling | Tim Susman — A story told in transcripts and other documents. A trans character works to escape her oppressive father in a world where people can also be shape-shifters. It had several pretty great elements, including the ending.

Kiss and Kiss and Kiss and Tell | E.C. Myers — A drug that lets teenagers see into the future while they are kidding someone. Or a possible future, anyway. A girl on psych meds has a different reaction to it than her peers do and fixates on leaning more.

Vanilla | Dirk Flinthart — Alien refugees have come to live on Earth in this story about an Australian girl with Somalian parents whose two best friends are aliens.

Careful Magic | Karen Healey — A girl with powerful magic and possibly OCD gets caught up in some of her magic-school classmates' shenanigans. A high-stakes magical story.

Walkdog | Sofia Samatar — A progressively sad story told in the form of a school-girl's essay. (Crappy grammar and all.) It's hard to comment on without spoiling, but the essay is ostensibly about the urban legend of Walkdog, the dog who walks you.

Celebration | Sean Eads — A gay teen is sent to gay camp (you know, the deprogramming kind) but when he gets there it's not quite the kind of brainwashing he expected.

The Truth About Owls | Amal El-Mohtar — A girl from Lebanon moves to Glasgow and discovers the joy of owls, Welsh and the truth about the power she feels inside herself. (Sort of.)

Krishna Blue | Shveta Thakrar — This was a weird story and one of the most horrifying. The story itself is wide open to interpretation, so I don't want to blatantly say what it's about other than a girl who doesn't fit in.

Every Little Thing | Holly Kench — A witch who also happen to be chronically ill, her supportive friend and her crush. About the importance of having friends that understand your needs/problems.

Happy Go Lucky | Garth Nix — Honestly, this story didn't really do it for me. It wasn't terrible, but it reminded me of far too many YA dystopian novels, with the usual variation on a theme. The "privileged youth hits hard times in dystopia" is a formula I've run out of patience for. (But I'm torn as to whether the diverse elements' complete irrelevance to the plot is a good or bad thing.)

Ordinary Things | Vylar Kaftan — Probably the least YA story with a 19 year old protagonist. Girl dealing with the end of a serious relationship and seeking safety in ritual.

Double Time | John Chu — An elite figure skating teen in a world where it's possible to jump back in time by up to four minutes to watch your practice or even skate with yourself. It was bittersweet.

Welcome | William Alexander — I think this was the shortest story, and certainly the most fantastical in the collection. The moon and earth are connected by a magical bridge, which smugglers cross at night. A whimsical (if not entirely cheerful) end to the anthology.

5 / 5 stars

First published: August 2014, Twelfth Planet Press (official Australian launch is October, though, for technical reasons)
Series: No...
Format read: Bit of paper, mostly ebook
Source: Kickstarter rewards

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