cover image Dance on Saturday

Dance on Saturday

Elwin Cotman. Small Beer, $17 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-61873-172-2

Cotman (Hard Times Blues) wields biting wit, powerful emotion, and magic large and small throughout these six superlative stories. From the epic fantasy “The Son’s War,” which wrestles with themes of imagination and greed as a prince creates two automaton companions, one out of diamond and one out of jade, and soon favors one over the other, to the claustrophobic social thriller “Mine,” set at a high school volleyball tournament in Hell as the teen girl players become increasingly cruel and the behavior of the adults around them increasingly inappropriate, Cotman utilizes genre conventions to examine racism, sexism, power imbalances, and hypocrisy. “Among the Zoologists” is a sexually charged fever dream about a zoology conference that blurs the line between humans and animals. The title story is the strongest, imagining a group of immortals with the ability to extend their lives by growing and consuming fruit, in prose that ranges from humorous (“[She] grabbed the first three Mariah Carey LPs for maximum positive energy”) to lyrical (“She adored the sight of melons hanging like rotund trapeze artists from their own vines”). Readers will be blown away by this standout tale, which grapples with the responsibility of holding power, and whether that power can, or should, be shared. Cotman’s bold and timely speculative fiction marks him as a writer to watch. (June)