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Starlings, by Jo Walton.

November 19, 2017

StarlingsStarlings, by Jo Walton.  San Francisco: Tachyon, 2018.


4 stars

A collection of short prose pieces and poetry by the author of some of my favorite fantasy novels.

Jo Walton is an award-winning author of fantasy and science fiction. She was born and raised in Wales and now lives and writes in Canada.  As she explains in the introduction to Starlings, she considers herself a novelist and poet.  Short stories eluded her until after she established herself with her novels.  She also wrote poetry.  Yet for years she experimented with short fiction, some of which is included in this anthology.  She wrote exercises and extended jokes.  She wrote the first chapters of what might have become novels but didn’t.  Finally in recent years, she has been able to create successful short stories which she includes.  The difference from her earlier attempts, she claims, is that she was able to write endings that are “weighty” enough to balance the rest of the narrative.

Starlings allows Walton’s readers to see the process by which she has developed her talent.  After each selection, she includes notes about its context and publication.  Some of the stories are fun and “show promise” but are not up to the expectations I had from her novels.  Most are basically science fiction rather than fantasy, with creatures living in strange societies on other planets.  One actually is about an urban, second-generation society living in a starship.  In addition, Walton includes some of her poetry in the anthology.  Some of these are based on classic pieces of literature. All reflect Walton’s attention to words.  The book itself takes its name from one of her poems which defines starlings as “little stars” released in the universe.

I recommend Starlings to those who love and know Walton’s work and more generally to fantasy fans curious about how an author’s mind works.

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