My idea of a good time is soaring through the air with night witches, galloping through the Old West with outlaws, tailing dangerous dames and femmes fatales, and otherwise cavorting with women you’d be crazy to cross. Luckily for me–and for you!–George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois have edited a spectacular collection of short stories called Dangerous Women, featuring what are most commonly referred to today as “strong female characters,” though they are ever so much more than that.
I had fully intended to read one or two tales at a time to make the collection last longer, but the stories are just so great, I’ve been burning through them the way I normally polish off a bag of Fig Newtons after a long run (do not judge). So far I’ve been totally creeped out by Megan Abbott, highly amused by Joe R. Lansdale, stunned to silence by Brandon Sanderson, and treated to a whirlwind of genres from Western to noir. I’m even in possession of information that Jim Butcher fans who aren’t up-to-date on the Dresden files will be extremely excited to learn. And overall, I’m just plain delighted by the variety of genres produced by a greatest hits lineup of well-known folks–that make up the volume.
[In fact, the only thing that makes me sad about this anthology is that there are no writers of color featured in it. I fail to see how that could possibly have happened, given that authors like Nalo Hopkinson, Jewelle Gomez, and Natsuo Kirino (to name but a few of many) are alive and well, and creating dangerous women of their own. Luckily, there are other story collections to remedy this shortcoming, and I’d recommend you look into them.]
My favorite piece thus far in Dangerous Women addresses the fear of getting old with a twist of the fantastic. Megan Lindholm (better known to some as Robin Hobb) delivers the quietly brilliant “Neighbors,” the story of an aging woman named Sarah whose son is determined to put her in an assisted living facility. Sarah, who has lost her husband (to death), her brother (to Alzheimer’s disease) and her dog (to the mysterious fog that rolls into her yard every night) is determined to hold on to her house for as long as she can. But though her efforts have kept her children at bay thus far, she can’t hold out forever. Meanwhile, the fog–and the mysterious people Sarah sees coming and going inside of it–gets closer and closer to the house. Deeply moving and suspenseful, Lindholm’s story will have you rooting for Sarah all the way up to the surprising–but, under the circumstances, believable–ending.
So, if you’re looking for a series of hair-raising adventures featuring heroines–and villains–who could teach Buffy the Vampire Slayer a thing or two, I definitely recommend snuggling up for a weekend with Dangerous Women. Despite its one glaring flaw, it’s one of the most exciting collections I’ve picked up in a long time, and short story fans of all kinds will consider it a win.