Sword & Laser Anthology edited by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt
|Book Name:||Sword & Laser Anthology|
|Author:||Edited by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt|
|Publisher(s):||Sword & Laser LLC|
|Genre(s):||Fantasy / Science Fiction / Short Stories|
|Release Date:||May 1, 2014|
If you listen to the Sword & Laser podcast, you should support the empire of Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt by reading their anthology. You’ll enjoy the swirling vortex of fantasy and science-fiction stories they’ve chosen. And if you’ve not yet availed yourself of the podcast or YouTube series, consider joining one book club of two genres allied by imagination.
Sword & Laser features interviews with a menagerie of authors, including Patrick Rothfuss. His introduction to the anthology promises a story for every taste. Not only does the trove of tales impress with creativity, its breadth includes delights for the full spectrum of speculative-fiction readers. One story, “Jonah’s Daughter,” twists chronology in a complex narrative involving a biological spaceship with sphincter doors. Another, “The Novice’s Guide to Adventure,” gives us a straightforward dragon-hunt that’s bright with humor. “Remember you can’t get paid if you’re dead.”
The anthology begins with all the sword stories, a full armory of fantasy.
“Soft as a Feather When Done Right” by Nicole Feldringer
As a girl licks a Valentine’s card, a supercell storm threatens to sweep away her village. Embarrassment might just kill, if it crackles in the heart of a magical boy. I wish this tale could have gone on longer, or perhaps it should’ve been shorter. Finding the perfect length for a short story is no easy feat.
“A Night For Spirits and Snowflakes” by Aidan Moher
Four dead brothers in arms. For graves must be dug into the ice-packed snow with a sword for a shovel. Four stories told from the perspectives of the fallen. This tale impressed me, told by the editor of A Dribble of Ink.
“Saltwater Skin” by Kristy Sutherland
“She could never seem to get warm in this skin.” A selkie who hates the taste of seafood wants to stay with her human beloved. He feels like she’s denying her true self – that she should return to the sea and her family. But if she does that, even for a day, she’ll be unable to peel off her seal skin for years.
“Partly Petrified” by Auston Habershaw
A thief encounters a snag in his looting spree when a bumbling artificer petrifies them together, joined hand in hand in a stony embrace. The verbose scoundrel will have to steal away the sniveling artificer if either wish to live. An enjoyable romp of a story.
“The Lesser Evil” by Day Al-Mohamed
Everyone thinks Arturo is a Mexican. In truth, he’s a Mestizo, carrying Native-American blood and a tradition of being a medicine man. In a city of drugs, murder, and worse, his mantra is, “You can’t save them all.” But he just might be able to save one young girl.
“White Flame” by Jeffrey N. Baker
A mercenary with a penchant for sneaking in then lobbing alchemical explosions helps waylay a caravan of cultists. Then things turn rancid. The cult worships a god of plague. The mercenary has a plan, and by plan I mean concoctions of noxious, corrosive, and incendiary flavors. His alchemy has never failed him before, except for those last few times. This sword-and-sorcery tale also includes a woman of indeterminate body shape beneath her practical armor. She loves her hammers, which she duel-wields for some good eyeball-dislodging fun.
I made the mistake of reading this while entertaining hopes of being able to eat a meal in the near future, or ever again. The tale achieves epic levels of gore.
“How Fox Fixed The Sky” by Stephen Case
In a tale featuring myths from China, a bossy and irreverent fox leaps into a hole in the sky. He finds vaulted pillars and star lanterns, the rain bird and the old man who keeps the winds. To repair the heavens, fox must weave netting from reeds that have never been cut, guarded by Bull Moon and Sun Ox. Fox has but one secret weapon, a knife crafted of a sliver of sky.
“A Good Man” by Zachary Tringali
A prince is disinherited because of his knavery. Or that is what the kingdom is led to believe. The truth is far darker, down in the dungeons where the wyrms are kept. The prince drinks their blood. He only escapes his deformities and comes alive when he’s nearest death, drunk on wyrm blood. If the prince can be saved, he’ll need the help of the man who stole his inheritance, his younger brother.
“Knowing Better” by Paul Krueger
One should never cross a chef in his own kitchen, especially when that chef gained his deftness with knives by training first with swords in the army. Tonight, he’s being kicked out so that a scheming interloper can prepare a monstrous meal for the empress. Well, a chef has his pride, and as it turns out, an enchanted knife.
“The Novice’s Guide To Adventuring” by Sean Tadsen
I mentioned this fun jaunt before, featuring a wizard and a barbarian whose mother’s milk is strong enough to be twenty proof. Here ends the sword half of the anthology, and I considered stopping my read. I’m glad I didn’t.
Sword & Laser celebrates what both genres have in common. Science fiction, like fantasy, introduces a new spark of imagination. Whether it’s a new form of technology or magic matters little. In both cases, the reader is invited to go on an adventure that plays with the idea. Each genre delights in human ingenuity.
I did lem* a few sci-fi tales. Others, I cherished. Since I’ve read less science-fiction I may be less critical of it. I can say only that I loved the next two stories with supernova radiance.
“The Osiris Paradox” by Sarina Dorie
A woman flies into the asteroid belt to seek the help of a rain goddess. A planet is dying of drought, and the divinity doesn’t care. She does tell the mortal how she might transcend herself and save her people, but the paradox is that in becoming a god she’ll lose her humanity. She’ll no longer wish to help anyone, or so the rain goddess says. The woman vows she’ll not be such a small-minded god.
“Leviathan! Leviathan!” by Jacob A. Boyd
This is my personal favorite in the anthology. I think we can all agree that there’s only one thing better than a sea monster, and that’s a mech kraken made of space-age technology sent back in time. The man who operates the gyros struggles with becoming a monster himself, charged to kill all primitive sea-fearing vessels that approach an island. The pathogens carried by the native humans will destroy the immunocompromised time travelers, who’re tourists in this unspoilt paradise.
“Birdy” by Rebecca J. Thomas
This story could just have easily fit into the Sword side of the anthology, but perhaps Tom Merritt wished to claim it for his own. A young girl just wants to learn how to fly. Her doppelganger just wants to steal her identity. Can’t children ever get along? I wish this story had been a scene or so longer.
“Honeybun” by Austin Malone
Sometimes that vending machine won’t cough up the treat you paid for. This time, it’s because a virus has spread sentience through all machines, and losing that sweet roll is the least of the protagonist’s problems.
I liked this story enough to feel disappointed at the end, when a reveal was withheld. It is possible, however, that making a certain detail explicit would’ve been too heavy handed and detrimental to the final paragraphs.
Now if you’ll excuse me, my clockwork kraken is ready to launch. Those ships won’t wreck themselves. I’ll leave you with a link to the Sword & Laser lair on Goodreads. From there you can find their podcast and YouTube series, which are awesome as a dragon with a photon-blast breath attack.
*To lem a story means to lose interest and skip it. Now you’re equipped with all you need to know to enjoy Sword & Laser.