Summer Shorts is weekly feature of short story/novella reviews, posted every Saturday of July and August, 2011. Every week has a different theme – be it featuring a specific anthology, a particular genre, or a great author.
Last week I reviewed two stories from the special YA edition of Subterranean magazine, and this week I’m featuring another wonderful magazine… Fantasy Magazine, the sister publication to Lightspeed. Fantasy Magazine features some absolutely extraordinary authors and also has audio versions of their fiction available as podcasts. All the ones I’ve heard have been extremely well read, so if you are looking for some new audio fiction check out their itunes page!
The Wolves of Brooklyn by Catherynne M. Valente
(Available here – Valente is the author of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and other novels.)
I asked one of them once. She’d followed me home from the F train—what I mean is she’d been all the way down on the platform, and when I got off she trotted up after me and followed me—me, specifically. And I turned around in the snow, the fucking snow that never ends, and I yelled: Why? Why are you here? What are you doing? What do you want? I guess that sounds dumb, like a scene in a movie if this were happening in a movie and DiCaprio or whoever was having his big cathartic moment. But I wanted to know so badly. And she—I noticed it was a she. A bitch. She bent her head. God, they are so tall. So tall. Like statues. She bent her head and she licked my cheek. Like I was a baby. She did it just exactly like I was her puppy. Tender, kind. She pressed her forehead against mine and shut her eyes and then she ran off. Like it hadn’t even happened.
Thoughts: The Wolves of Brooklyn is an extraordinary story… there was something about it that I both loved and hated. I’m not sure what it was exactly but, like everyone else in this story, it had something to do with the wolves.
Valente’s tale is rather simple, in a way. One day, wolves turn up in Brooklyn. They don’t talk or heal diseases, but neither are they your Yellowstone variety canid. They are huge, magical wolves that control the city and everyone in it. They are simultaneously loved and feared… because, yes, they do eat people on occasion. It’s an extraordinary concept.
But the idea unnerved me. I love wolves and loathe stories that set them up as the villains. However, The Wolves of Brooklyn never really defines the wolves as good or evil… they just are. The wolves are a force of nature beyond everything else in the tale. It is unnerving and stunning all at once. And to have this amazing concept directed by such a talented writer… well, it completely transported me.