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Goats, gripes, and grasping for greatness
Books: "The Tomato Thief" by Ursula Vernon 
6th-Jan-2016 09:48 am
Summer
"The Tomato Thief" by Ursula Vernon. Short story/Fantasy. E-publication within Apex magazine, available online here.

Grandma Harken loves her tomatoes. Apparently, a magical somebody does, as well. Grandma finds out who, and decides it is worth the trouble to right the wrongs involved.

The reason I'm writing up a short story is that I really enjoyed the world building. I inherited a love of trains from Dad, and the idea that trains just evolved into gods intrigues me. My favorite line in this story is "he said that his god thought letters were prayers and moved them as a kind of professional courtesy." Besides being used as the structure of the world, the trains have nothing to do with the plot. Vernon could have used a hundred other ways to color her southwestern setting.

I read the story because I read Vernon's blog, and she mentioned that it was available for free over at Apex, here.
Comments 
6th-Jan-2016 07:24 pm (UTC)
I agree the world building was very cool. I find myself consistently frustrated by the plot of Vernon/Kingfisher's stories, though (even while I consistently like her writing and characterization). Like, why does the protagonist put the thing in her mouth at the end? It's such a random thing to do. I understand that Vernon is going for a fairytale sort of logic, but even through that lens I wanted more foreshadowing. Show me her putting some other random gross thing in her mouth earlier in the story, at least!
6th-Jan-2016 07:33 pm (UTC)
I absolutely agree. The randomness of some of the elements of the story made it rather awkward once the coolness factor of the trains faded from my sight. The well-telegraphed reveal about the protagonist didn't explain her biting the thing. Why bite just that? And while I'm asking why, why would a coyote want tobacco or sage? What's up with the Gila? Why would water be magic just then and never any other time? (I know she said it was a rule of the desert, but still.) And did we need to know about the cholla rib girl? She didn't actually add anything to the story besides One More Weird Thing.
6th-Jan-2016 07:47 pm (UTC)
Right, and I feel the water thing could have been set up better because you have this whole long scene with the mockingbird at the beginning talking about the power of hospitality...except it's focused on coffee. So, either make coffee the thing, or work water into that scene. Then it all flows better. I like symmetry.

Coyote being random didn't bother me, because, I mean, that's the nature of a coyote. But you get away with stuff like that by having other story elements more tightly structured.
6th-Jan-2016 07:51 pm (UTC)
Well, I got the whole implication that coffee was both expensive generally, and missed by the mockingbird in particular. So that was ok as a hospitality thing. But yeah, the water needed to be better emphasized.
11th-Jan-2016 04:52 am (UTC)
...didn't the other jackalope wife story set up the water thing? Or am I just making things up... I parsed it mostly as water is magic regardless, but most of the time you don't need big magic so it just goes into the magic of keeping bodies working in a harsh environment.
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