Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Feathered Edge: An Outlander Takes on Masks and Feathers

Writers form communities in various ways, and I think there is no finer, more supportive or interwoven community than people who read and write fantasy and science fiction. Sometimes it feels as if there really are only about 300 of us, and we mill around, meeting one another through yet another different connection. Just as I wouldn't have met Rosemary Hawley Jarman except through Tanith Lee, who I had met through Norilana's publisher, I wouldn't have had the joy of editing Samantha Henderson's "Outlander" if I had not been friends and colleagues with Sheila Finch (whose "Fortune's Stepchild" also appears in The Feathered Edge).

Samantha was such a discovery that I searched out her other work. It came as no surprise that's she's also a poet and winner of the Rhysling Award, or that her fiction spans a spectrum from hilarious to very strange-and-dark, with a little steampunk thrown in, too. As one whose own poetry efforts are best forgotten, I'm a bit in awe of writers who can do this well, and even more so when they, like Samantha, are adept at prose stories as well.

"Outlander" has many of the superficial trappings we've seen before, in the adventures of a man from the "sticks" who is seen by members of a caste-bound aristocracy as uncouth and dull-witted, although physically strong. We expect to find him in the dueling arena instead of the drawing room, and so we do, but not for the reasons we -- and the narrator -- assume. The story is told from the point of view of a member of the nobility who, while unable to see beyond his own prejudices, provides a transparent window for the reader's experience. Throughout the story, from the very first sentence, runs a vein of wit, not to mention keen social commentary. The result is a delightful mixture of humor and romance, with a twist at the end.

And I'm not saying any more about it, lest I spoil the surprise.

You can listen to this marvelous story on Podcastle.

No comments:

Post a Comment