cover image Ruins Excavation

Ruins Excavation

Edited by Eric T. Reynolds, with Rose Reynolds and Emmeline Wolfe. Hadley Rille (Ingram, dist.), $16 trade paper (228p) ISBN 978-0-9892631-6-0

A very specific call for speculative shorts "set in or about ruins with a protagonist who is a woman of color archaeologist" yields a collection that is commendable in its diversity of strong, modern female leads and pointers to specific ancient civilizations, but often feels like a beginner's writing class exercise, wildly inconsistent on the basics of storytelling quality and suffering from heavy exposition and hackneyed plot twists which feel pulled from action adventure movies . The settings are mostly excavations of some sort, but story antagonists range widely: Egyptian gods lead tomb chases, future bureaucrats judge modern human society, and mischievous Mayan fairies play tricks. Most memorable are stories which feel grounded in the lead's own cultural history like the brightly featured Mexican magical realism of M. C. Chambers' "Uno por Cada", which rest on emotional resonance like Jennifer Crow's "Cover Her Ghost with a Feathered Cape", in which a ghostly Anasazi ancestor helps a dying scholar approach her own death, or which gently tweak history to ask "what if", like Louise Herring-Jones' "Moundville Revisited" which imagines an African-American nurse as a critical player in a 1905 Birmingham excavation. (Nov.)