I forgot my book at work, and needed to buy something for the commute home. If I'm going to pay full price for something, it's going to have to be in support of an author I love: thus, this book.
Excellent, excellent stories - but I was disappointed, a bit, that I'd read most of them before. There's no previously-unpublished material here, except for the transcript of a speech McKillip gave at a con.
Wonders of the Invisible World - A bit of a strange choice for an opener, as it's a bit atypical of McKillip's writing. Very good story, but it reminded me quite a lot of Connie Willis or Kage Baker: a 'modern' time-traveller goes back to meet a religious fanatic (Cotton Mather) for academic purposes.
Out of the Woods - Here, McKillip uses a fantasy setting to illustrate a point, which one moght more-commonly expect to find in contemporary fiction, about how too much work and too many commitments can tear a relationship apart.
The Kelpie - (previously read in 'The Fair Folk') - Definitely one for anyone who loves the Pre-Raphaelites. The characters here are all fictional, but it takes place amidst a group of artists and models clearly modeled after Rossetti & co. A woman artist arrives on the scene, and is delighted to find another female painter who invites her participate in her salon... however, another artist pressures her into modeling for him, and his attentions soon progress to the level of blackmail. It takes an encounter with the titular kelpie to bring things to a head. Lovely, powerful story.
Hunter's Moon - Two children, visiting their relatives' rural hunting cabin, experience a dramatic encounter that may change how they view the world.
Oak Hill - A 'Bordertown' story. A runaway girl seeks magic - and finds it in a most unexpected place - within herself.
Fortune Teller - (previously read in 'Coyote Road'). A woman living a life of thievery and mischief meets a former compatriot who's 'gone straight' - and causes her to reassess her life choices.
Jack O'Lantern - (previously read in 'Firebirds Rising'). A young girl from a rather staid and upper-class family meets the young son of the painter who's been commissioned to paint her sister's bridal portrait. A small but magical adventure illustrates social roles, and barriers created by expectations.
Knight of the Well - A novella-length, well fleshed-out tale of a city brimming over with water magic and on the brink of disaster.
Naming Day - (previously read in 'Wizards'). A young woman eagerly anticipates her 'naming day,' when her magical academy conducts a ceremony in which the students choose their magical name. But her mother has a lesson about values to teach her daughter.
Byndley - (previously read in 'Firebirds'). A wizard on a long, hard quest, bearing an item stolen from the land of Faerie, enters a seemingly ordinary town - and learns that nothing may be as it seems.
The Twelve Dancing Princesses - (previously read in 'A Wolf at the Door'). A retelling of the classic fairy tale.
Undine - (previously read in 'The Faery Reel'). Sirens usually entrap human men a drag them under the waves... but when this one encounters an environmentalist fisherman, somehow things don't go as planned... and next thing she knows, she's out of water, and somehow being dragged around to a series of rallies for clean water, unable to find the unsullied place she needs...
Xmas Cruise - A surreal contemporary tale of a couple who take a cruise and are caught up in obsession. A nice commentary on the odd and stultifying nature on enclosed environments, artificial 'experiences' and planned activities.
A Gift to be Simple - The aging members of a celibate religious cult come up with a uniquely modern way of solving their problem of attrition. Nicely ambiguous - disturbing or uplifting?
The Old Woman and the Storm - (previously read in 'Imaginary Lands'). A beautiful story with the feel of an authentic legend. On a seemingly simple walk, a man experiences a mythological/existential crisis - and reaffirms him love of life and his wife.
The Doorkeeper of Khaat - Deceptively simple tale that deals with complex realities - differences between cultures, connections between humans, obligations and ethical choices. Reminded me a bit of Ursula LeGuin.
What Inspires Me - A speech by McKillip on her writing process.