“Once Upon a Time and They Lived Happily Ever After give us hope and create internal harmony in a world sometimes filled with cacophonous disharmony. Having grown up on stories of magic and miracles and wishes granted for those who are good and virtuous, we no look for- and find- that magic and those miracles in our lives and the world around us. We found it in a real-life bard who travels the country, touching the lives of everyone she meets with the music and magic she creates…When disaster struck her life, we turned to stories and those who create them in order to make some magic of our own.”
Sandra Buskirk’s words reflect the need for fairytales and the love that surrounds SJ Tucker. Having previously mentioned the mission to help Sooj, the review of Ravens in the Library, which is still available for purchase, continues…
Erzebet YellowBoy – “A Tithe for the Piper”:
All is well if an annual tithe is acceptable to the Piper, but if not, the giver is turned into dust. One in particular thinks and hopes she found the perfect gift for the widowed gentleman who used to pull “up flowers from between between cracks” with his ebony flute.
This descriptive piece portrays the power of love and music. 3/5
Storm Constantine – “Built on Blood”:
In this futuristic piece where the government states life will improve, people live either on the Estates or in the welfare areas, where the biker gangs are the law. Sallyann attends the Carnival where ads state “the Temple is Built on Blood” and the youthful King of Carnival gets shot by her mother.
It’s a good plot, but I found the story confusing in one or two parts. 4/5
- “There are always sacrifices. It doesn’t matter whether the gods are tripping out in skirts and thunderbolts somewhere in someone’s heaven, or getting you to buy a can of beer on TV. There are gods, and they need blood to keep them sweet.”
Shira Lipkin – “Fortune”:
Under a flashing sign in Las Vegas, a woman comes across a fortune teller who tells her a token is required for each gate. After the final card is read, she needs to decide what to leave behind.
Summing up the theme, the fortune teller sings a bit of SJ Tucker’s “Crystal Cave”:
“I woke up on a journey, the road ahead in my mind’s eye
its lessons universal and its beauty hard to hide”
It’s a unique story about life and moving forward. 4.5/5
Angel Leigh McCoy – “Pipsqueak”:
While living on the street with her pixie friends, Pip meets a guy named Jackass, or at least that’s what his friends call him. While running from the men of the institution from which she ran away, Jack saves the day and she finds herself face to face with the black, red-eyed dog who has been tailing her.
This piece shows that normal and crazy are relative. With pixies named Dream and Delirium, it’s a nice little tribute to Neil Gaiman’s the Sandman. 4/5
SatyrPhil Brucato – “Ravenous”:
During a concert, Kelsey goes too far and the band breaks up. While fighting, Nikita’s made aware that she sang Kelsey into being and that Kelsey has been feeding on her ever since.
I may have to track down some of his other shorts, including “Elynne Dragonchild” in Sword and Sorceress IX. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve read some of his other works without realizing it at the time. 4/5
- “Life is hungry. Ravenous. All things feed on something else, and are fed upon in turn.”
- “Each tree, I thought, is like this. Full of lives and deaths. All separate but bound together.”
- “Music is power. We know it. The Beast knows it. Groupies fuck it like infernos. Rock stars shoot it up like diamonds. The angel singing at the heart of a Marshall amp has a pitchfork and a tail but his kiss is the sweetest thing alive. Music is the dream of life.”
Alexandra Elizabeth Honigsberg – “In His Own Image”:
Made perfectly for their players, a viola is angelic and a guitar fills the air with passion. But when Boris is commissioned to create a bass cello things turn as ugly as jealousy.
It’s well-written interlude about the personalities of instruments, their players, and their makers and how they’re intertwined. 4/5
Kris Millering – “Of Mouse, and Music”:
Things have gone awry in rearranging House that has a mind of its own. With the assistance of a wisp of music, Mouse ventures to disarm the Device and set things to rights.
Colorful descriptions flow like music riding the air. 4/5
Jaymi Elford – “A Thin Line, Between”:
Like moths to a light, people are drawn to the girl in the big red velvet crumpled tophat. What they don’t realize are the changes she sets forth. 3/5
- “Out of friendship a petal can never a full rose make.”
- “Inner darkness only provides a false sense of security.”
Terri Winding – “the Color of Angels”:
With her life and artwork lacking, Tat heads to her studio in the country. Instead of longed for peace and quiet Tat’s disturbed by the constant tapping of the sculptor next door who made an offer on her place. How is the muse to visit in such conditions and what of the local folktale about the singing standing stones?
The vibrant colors woven with descriptions and music really help to make this story come alive. 5/5
- “The rhythm of the road was the only sound that travelled with them as she headed southwest, a subtle music, soothing to the soul, as spare and stripped down as her prints.”
Laurell K. Hamilton – “A Lust of Cupids”:
Like a game of cat and mouse, Rachel hides from her hunters, a lust of “naked children with cotton-candy wings and curly ringlets”.
This four-page short is as quick as a cupid’s arrow, impressively written, and worth a couple chuckles. 5/5
Mia Nutick – “the Substance of Things Hoped For”:
It was the fault of fans, roleplayers, believers “who called and called with voices and hearts and souls to the Others, to the magical beings we loved. We hoped and conjured and invoked until They came”. In a world where one receives “free brownie repellent with every removal” and “Buckingham Palace denies reports of leprechaun infestation”, Suzy needs to take care of some family business.
Macabre, this well-written piece brings to mind the grizzly fairytales of the Brothers Grimm. 5/5
SJ Tucker- “the Wendy Trilogy”:
A tale about Wendy forming her own pirate crew of Lost Girls.
“Tales are told of Sue and Wendy to keep all girls’ brothers kind
Unto their darling sisters. For, if they are a mind
To torment and to torture and to hair-pull and to tease,
One night she might turn pirate and run off to sail the seas!”
The lengthy three-part song on SJ’s Sirens album works quite well as a short story. It’s a fun song and also a perfect segue into…
Seanan McGuire – “Lost”:
Danny was too old at the time, but he remembers looking to the star-lit sky and staying behind as other children, including his sister, boarded a floating pirate ship.
Reminiscent of Peter Pan , this wonderfully written piece is truly original and a grand finale to the anthology. Vaguely familiar with Seanan’s music, I look forward to reading and hearing more from this writer and filk singer. 5/5
Ravens in the Library is an excellent introduction to a number of authors’ writing. The artwork illustrating the pieces and the music really round out the anthology. It’s a fantastic addition to anyone’s bookshelf. Although it was bittersweet to finish, I look forward to opening its magic again and again.
In the introduction, SatyrPhil Brucato writes that as thankful as he is for the anthology’s contributors the mission to save SJ Tucker should not be necessary.
“When you look at the core of the magic we’ve produced, the grim necessity behind it is the unspeakable condition of American “health care” as of 2009. Beneath my happiness burns a simmering rage. I lost one friend, and damned near lost another, because the system as it stands is stupidly, lethally broken… For every S.J. Tucker, there are millions of people who have no such Voice, no such friends, no such solutions. Things must change.”
He’s absolutely right. Several folks mentioned sending copies of Ravens in the Library, or at least its introduction, to certain political people to voice their concerns about the system and demand improvement. Change needs to happen, but it also needs to begin somewhere.
Before going into “Mandolin Holy Man”, SJ Tucker reminds people to:
“Keep in mind that even after we elect the person we want to elect this time, it is our job not to give him any slack…Make the phone calls, write the emails, make some noise…Not just the guy we elect is the one who needs to take care of this country. We’re still in charge…Congress is still outnumbered.”