cover image The Proper Thing and Other Stories

The Proper Thing and Other Stories

Seanan McGuire. Subterranean Press, $50 (512p) ISBN 978-1-64524-192-8

Hugo and Nebula Award winner McGuire’s staggering second limited-edition collection with Subterranean takes a somewhat darker tone than 2019’s Laughter at the Academy, but these 24 stories still offer a sense of twisted whimsy and cautious optimism. McGuire’s love for the public resources that, she writes in insightful story notes, sustained her own childhood comes through in a brace of creepy library stories—“Now Rest, My Dear” and “Good Night, Sleep Tight”—as well as in “Belief,” a melancholy ode to rural mail service. Her fascination with disease and pandemics, blending with real-life experiences of the Covid era, yields the playful taxonomy of world-endings that comprises “Coafield’s Catalog of Available Apocalypse Events,” and the too-close-for-comfort “Vegetables and Vaccines.” The author also showcases her gift for pulling fairy tales onto the modern stage in “Fresh as the New-Fallen Snow,” which reimagines the Russian folkloric figure of Snegurochka as a creepy babysitter, and “Phantoms of the Midway,” which sets the Hades and Persephone myth at a haunted traveling carnival. A similar folkloric aesthetic and the author’s professed love of cheese come together in the mystical transformations of the delightful title novella, which closes out the collection. It’s easy to sink into the imaginatively unsettling spaces these stories inhabit. (Apr.)