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Tales In Firelight And Shadow
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-205-2
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Science Fiction
eBook Length: 194 Pages
Published: October 2014

From inside the flap

Tales in Firelight and Shadow is a collection of short stories by well-known and fresh new writers of fantasy, speculative and science fiction, retelling folktales from many lands and cultures. Award-winning authors present challenging new twists on familiar tales: James Morrow’s museum curator and his university professor daughter discover the ultimate answer to the human condition; Mary Turzillo’s talking cat rats on a legendary illusionist; and Tenea D. Johnson’s fairies deal with the dream dolls of nightmare.

Writers testing the speculative waters with their risk-taking styles captivate and enchant us: an adventurous young professional tries out a new eatery, with disastrous results; a haunted lake binds the horrors of the slaveholding past to the land’s future; a boy steals what a Scottish fairy has no intention of parting with. A lonely girl in a beachside shack yearns for a mermaid godmother’s gifts. Shadowy stalkers haunt forests and dreams.

Emerging novelists delight us with old tales never before told like this: Jason Parent’s Salem shyster outsmarts his own self; Patricia Stoltey’s ogre is not at all what—or who—we think; Christina St. Clair’s loving wife on the ultimate spiritual quest seems to have gone horribly astray; and A.J. Maguire’s scientist alone on the moon with her husband and the man she truly loves must come up with the courage to choose if and how she will survive. We discover that fairytales and urban legends are the stuff of personal memory.

The folktales gathered and retold in Tales in Firelight and Shadow answer the oldest of our questions: “Why is my world as it is, and how can I find my way through it?” For, if folktales exorcize the pain of lessons learned over many lifetimes, then in this world of fairy, flame and chaos, enchantment—we realize with a start—is the only reality. We dream so that we may open our eyes.

Tales In Firelight And Shadow (Excerpt)

Table of Contents


Mary A. Turzillo - "Pigeon Drop"

Jason Parent - "Moody's Metal"

Patricia Stoltey - "Three Sisters of Ring Island"

Joseph Michael - "Nuckelavee"

Tenea D. Johnson - "Sugar Hill"

James Morrow - "Spinoza's Golem"

Christina St. Clair - "Green Cat"

Alfonso Arteaga - "La Planchada" ["The Woman in the Ironed Dress"]

T.J. Weyler - "Keepers"

Ceschino - "Tailed"

Alexandra Dairo-Brown - "Mercy and the Mermaid"

Novella Serena - "My Bogeyman"

montage - "Sans Lake"

A.J. Maguire - "The Nano-Fisherman's Wife"

F. Brett Cox - "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean"

Jennifer L. Julian - "Dance"

Alexis Brooks de Vita - "The Savant"


In the dark night of the human soul, a fire is lit and a tale is told, stirred from a chthonic pottage of dirt, blood and terror: the folktale. The flame that simmers our earthly supper does double duty as light through black hours toward the brave sun of day. We feed the body and the faltering spirit with hearth fire, campfire, candlelight, and electricity: flames promising that we are not alone.

Like those flames, the following tales edify and terrify as they cast light in flickering contrast to the encroaching shadow, beginning with the deceptively beguiling tale of Mary Turzillo's "Pigeon Drop." The magic tale, the enchantment, we realize with a start, is a terrible illusion. Or is it, asks Jason Parent's tongue-in-cheek "Moody's Metal," a talisman clutched against witches, curses and despair?

Oh, but where is that folktale world so fondly recalled from childhood? Right here in Patricia Stoltey's sun-spattered "Three Sisters of Ring Island," a familiar story scraped to its bare bones-so to speak. In this skeletal frame, if we look around, we will discover that we live poised on the sea-sprayed cliffs of Joseph Michael's "Nuckelavee," immersed in the realm of fairy, fear and chaos, in Tenea D. Johnson's "Sugar Hill."

Or, in the small hours, might we prefer to face the unknown worlds within ourselves? Then welcome to master fantasist James Morrow's excavation of the secrets of the furrowed-brow philosopher in "Spinoza's Golem." Certainly, the intrepid reader thinks, foot on the brink of a precipitous plunge, this tale carves a face on our wordless grown-up anxieties. For is it not precisely our ache for both profound meaning and unbreakable belonging that renders Christina St. Clair's "Green Cat" a universal cameo of pathos and pity?

We reach out a hand to stay the destruction, to say, "Turn back; take back those words and all that pain."

For, none of us wants to be-or see-that disillusioned soul for whom it has all ended too soon, that one made up of shadows and whispers for whom there will be nothing sweet, nothing else, nothing more: Alfonso Arteaga's "La Planchada."

How we dread to come across those doomed to endure the lessons of what it all meant, too late to mend or make amends: T.J. Weyler's "Keepers." So much of our suffering comes with the discovery that we are neither who nor what we think we should have been-as Ceschino's "Tailed" brings, quite literally, home.

Had we not better take these chances, live these enchantments, do exactly as Alexandra Dairo-Brown's "Mercy and the Mermaid" so triumphantly do? Surely the folktale exists to indulge our desire for life filled with love and joy-and to show us our fears that perhaps our lives will not be so idyllic.

To show us how to bear up under the grinding down, as in Novella Serena's "My Bogeyman."

If living has deprived us of the love we need and the meaning we seek, montage asks from the depths of "Sans Lake," can we not reach out again to the world one last time from that spiritual place that surely is to come?

We who peer through an opaque lens at the dark side of the moon watch as A.J. Maguire's "The Nano-Fisherman's Wife" shakes her head and cautions us not to risk our one sure chance at happiness, for we never know if it is our last: the thought that troubles F. Brett Cox's "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" and Jennifer L. Julian's "Dance."

For, as sun shreds night with returning opportunity, we must each answer that question we can only resolve for ourselves: what do we make of this folksy knowledge gained from those who've gone ahead and reached back with a cautionary tale like a friendly flame, torchlight that reminds us in our blindness that daylight is always coming, just ahead?

Closing this volume, we may consider that our folktales, braided of firelight, song and shadow, have taught us to see the darker side of right, a faithful kind of insight.

We read, dream and forge on, knowing we shall wake in a larger world, braver for our sojourn in sightless times and wiser for patience learned through old lessons enjoyed anew.

- Alexis Brooks de Vita