I've been traveling (and recovering from travels) but now I'm back. I hope everyone had good holidays and wish everyone a happy new year.
I'm still behind the most recent short fiction, but I've been catching up, and two that I read during my travels especially stood out for me for their interesting settings.
Matthew Johnson's "Holdfast" in Fantasy Magazine tells the story of a land where rhymes and simple spells--and most importantly, knots--hold real power, if performed correctly. Even more, it's the story of a person who has chosen that his deeply magical connection to his land is more important than whatever acclaim he might earn by leaving the place and becoming a famous wizard. I could see Wendell Berry enjoying the story, though I can't say I could see him writing it, per se.
"A Bounty Split Three Ways" by Peter Kovic (Beneath Ceaseless Skies) is a well-realized story of a country bumpkin sort who has decided to become a bounty hunter in order to pay a wizard a fee he'd promised, knowing he had no way to pay. No one thing stood out for why I enjoyed this story, but I just liked how it all worked together.
Looking up the link to that one, I remembered another Beneath Ceaseless Skies story that I'd read earlier while traveling and enjoyed a lot: "As Below, So Above" by Ferrett Steinmetz. This is the story of a squid (always good to get the cephalopods involved), the story of a monster whose job is to protect an evil wizard, written completely from his point of view and with his understanding of who and what humans are.