Tales of Unquiet Women
by Lee Murray, Geneve Flynn, Nadia Bulkin, Elaine Cuyegkeng, Rin Chupeco, Grace Chan, Angela Yuriko Smith, Gabriela Lee, Rena Mason, Christina Sng, Nancy Holder, Alma Katsu
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Pub Date 23 Mar 2023 | Archive Date 30 Mar 2023
RDS Publishing, Raw Dog Screaming Press
Almond-eyed celestial, the filial daughter, the perfect wife.
Quiet, submissive, demure.
In Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, Southeast Asian writers of horror both embrace and reject these traditional roles in a unique collection of stories which dissect their experiences of ‘otherness’, be it in the colour of their skin, the angle of their cheekbones, the things they dare to write, or the places they have made for themselves in the world.
Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women is a dark and intimate exploration of what it is to be a perpetual outsider.
A Note From the Publisher
Edited by award-winning author and editor Lee Murray, and published short story author and award-winning editor Geneve Flynn, the previous edition of Black Cranes went on to win the well-earned Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association and the prestigious Shirley Jackson Award. It was also critically acclaimed in reviewer circles and well-loved by readers.
It includes Grace Chan’s Aurealis-nominated story “The Mark,” shortlisted for Australia’s Norma K. Hemming Award, which recognizes excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class, or disability in a published speculative fiction work. The Eugie Foster was also awarded for Elaine Cuyegkeng’s story “The Genetic Alchemist’s Daughter.” Black Cranes was an Aurealis Award Finalist, Australian Shadows Award Finalist, British Fantasy Award Finalist, and was Locus Award Recommended.
“A varied and fascinating collection of monsters, full of dazzling landscapes and writers to watch.”—E. Lily Yu author On Fragile Waves
“As haunting and versatile as the Chinese erhu, the stories in Black Cranes pluck and bow the strings of the Southeast Asian experience with insightful depth and resonance.” —Tori Eldridge, author of the Lily Wong series
“The preconceived notions of both the authors’ identities and of the limitations of the horror genre itself will be smashed to pieces, to the delight of readers.” —Library Journal
“A bloody-toothed smile hidden behind the hand of propriety and social expectation.”—Pseudopod
“Resonates with bold originality throughout.” —Space & Time Magazine
“The beauty of this collection is in the diversity of the voices and the individuality and uniqueness of each story coming together in one book.” —Tor Nightfire
“Lyrical and haunting prose... This is dark, reflective fiction at its best.” —Tomes and Tales
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 43 members
I really loved this anthology, it was what I was expecting from a horror anthology and I loved the use of women as the star. Each story was well done and did what I was hoping for and I loved the differences from the authors. I can't wait for more anthologies from this company. Phoenix Claws was my favorite in the collection.
"My heart rapped out a beat. Didn’t eat it. Didn’t eat it. In fact, rather than eat it, Fin had gone to great lengths to hide the chicken foot in his pocket."
This one got nominated left and right, and, having read it, it’s easy to see why. The quality is there, and the theme is just right: Asian women in dark speculative fiction.
Bookended by famous author provided Foreword and Afterword and featuring lesser known names as entries, this anthology takes on the restrictive gender stereotypes, the oppressing importance of conventional family structures and heavy weight of expectations that Asian culture traditionally places on women.
The range of the stories is quite striking and most are very good, very compelling. Definitely good introductions to some new authors (a lot of them from Australia and New Zealand) for me.
I can’t say there were any real standouts for me, but that bodes well for the overall quality. I know I cared less for the more fantasy-like tale and enjoyed the more realistic narratives. Well, realistic is relative when it comes to weaving nightmares, but you know…
At any rate, this was a good. Interesting. Thought provoking start to finish. Strong cultural critiques all around in darkly delicious scary story shells. Recommended. Thanks Netgalley.
This is an amazing collection of extremely creepy horror stories written by Asian women who take the stereotypes of their roles in culture and turns them on their heads.
Whether a story deals with zombies, myths and lore, or even the darker side of love, each one is written from the perspective of cultural demands and how these expectations intertwine with the horrors presented.
I also want to say how beautifully written these stories are! They bounce around in your head and in between the prose are creatures lurking, ready to spring. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it!
‘We can be many things. The only thing we can’t be is defeated’
Before ending the prologue to Black Cranes, Alma Katsu offers a last welcome to the reader with these words, a perfect phrase before entering the collection of fourteen tales that will travel to different places, from Malaysia to New Zealand, to completely fictional locations. From tales rooted in ethnic folklore to imagined (and maybe known to some of the readers) cultures and beliefs.
I was hesitant about the way to approach this review. Should I explain each story separately? Look for similarities, maybe? And I finally decided to somehow imitate what Alma Katsu does in the prologue: unify themes, and at the same time express the differences, the things that worked for me and the things that did not. I must also admit that sometimes I found myself afraid of whether my ignorance about Asian folklore was making me miss some pivotal points of the narrative, and what I thought was a simple Google search ended in several hours and a couple of Asian mythology books in my TBR.
Black Cranes starts strong with ‘The Genetic Alchemist’s Daughter’, by Elaine Cuyegkeng, which I will say is one of my favourite stories from the whole collection and puts the bar extremely high from the very beginning. It is a story that mixes science fiction with horror to create a deeply disturbing society in which babies can be made from scratch, the parents deciding which attributes will suit them better or, and this is the horrifying part, people can be modified if the parents are not happy with how their children are behaving or the path they are about to choose. It left me devastated and wary of our own future.
Following with the science fiction theme, we have two stories by Angela Yuriko Smith, ‘Skin Dowdy’ and ‘Vanilla Rice’. ‘Skin Dowdy’ presents a kind of cyberpunk society where women modify their bodies in order to be flashier and shinier for their suitors, transforming themselves into pieces of art but leaving their human part behind. ‘Vanilla Rice’ confronts us to the wishes of a mother trying to help her daughter in order to not feel as out of place as she once felt only for the daughter to realize that she does not belong anywhere.
The final science fiction story, ‘Fury’ by Christina Sng, puts the reader in a more known environment: a zombie apocalypse. In here, and through the eyes of Kate, a military soldier trained to survive everything, we will see the decadence of the human race and also the sacrifices that are made in the heart of a family.
Family is also the pivotal point in ‘Phoenix Claws’, by Lee Murray, a peculiar tale where a simple, made-up tradition evolves into a deafening curse.
Ghosts also make their appearance in Black Cranes, but forget about the more western-known, cinema-driven, black-haired female ghosts. In here, ‘Of Hunger and Fury’ by Grace Chan shows the inherent risks of family curses and ghosts that are not properly heard; in ‘Frangipani Wishes’, by Lee Murray, the ghosts thrive in resentment, following our main character like a cloud and scream or become silent depending on the occasion.
And then we have ‘Little Worm’, by Geneve Flynn, where it is not a ghost, but a spirit, a kwee kia, in the centre of a mother-daughter reunion filled with sadness and repentance.
There are, as explained above, several stories related to ethnic folklore. Coincidentally, these are, together with ‘The Genetic Alchemist’s Daughter’, the ones I enjoyed the most. I was already a fan of Nadia Bulkin, and I had already read ‘Truth is Order and Order is Truth’ in its Spanish translation, but it was amazing to come back to it and feel the journey to Jungkune as if it was the first time. I knew nothing of the tiyanak, but I felt its pull each time a character was near the forest in Gabriela Lee’s ‘Rites of Passage’. And, even if I knew about the female fox spirit, I enjoyed being in her company in Rena Mason’s ‘The Ninth Tale’. And finally, the writing style, the flowing of the words, was the best attribute of Rin Chupeco’s ‘Kapre: A Love Story’.
There are two tales I was not sure where to classify: ‘The Mark’, by Grace Chan, where a woman starts to suspect that her husband is not really her husband, and ‘A Pet is for Life’, by Feneve Flynn, maybe the tale with the biggest plot twist in the whole collection.
In general, Black Cranes was a fantastic collection of tales. As already mentioned, some shine above the others, but there’s not one single story that feels out of place. To the contrary, my feeling with most of them was that I wanted more information, more details. And it was simply great to have the opportunity to approach, as a Westerner, pieces of a culture from the point of view of the almost always silent, domestic women.
Nancy Holder could not have said it better in her Afterword: ‘They have not simply spoken, they have roared’.
I really enjoyed Black Cranes.
It was a great Anthology of stories by Asian Women about Asian Women.
I ended up loving most of the stories and my favourite was probably The Ninth Tale.
I definitely recommend this book!
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
I enjoyed this compilation of stories of women who spoke out whether with words or with actions. This is a strong collection of tales with only one or two that I was not fond of. My favorites include "A Pet is For Life" and "The Ninth Tale".
An interesting short story anthology! As with many short story collections of this size and this much varying authors, the content will be hit or miss. However, as an Asian woman myself, I found the premise and theme overall pretty emotional and cathartic. For that, it was a worthwhile read.
I absolutely loved all of these short stories. Each one was insightful, heartbreaking, and empowering. I especially enjoyed the stories involving mythological aspects - it’s certainly a common theme in many myths and legends that women are always the ones who end up being punished for mistakes and shortcomings not directly involving them, and I greatly appreciated how some of these stories discussed that. While all of them were thought-provoking and enlightening, I’d have to say that my favorite was “Little Worm” by Geneve Flynn. I know that I’ll definitely have that one running through my mind 24/7 for a while (more likely, forever).
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