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‘The Privilege of the Happy Ending’ by Kij Johnson

Johnson plumbs great depths in her third short story collection, full of bittersweet tales of the fantastic. This pleasingly varied anthology of fantasy and homage collects 14 works, many of which were previously published elsewhere, including the Nebula and Hugo Award finalist and World Fantasy Award–winning “The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe.” … While the entries are uniformly excellent in pacing and prose, the standouts may be the collection’s opener and closer. “Tool-Using Mimics” spins out a half-dozen explanations for a vintage photo of a young girl with tentacles that lead to piercing questions about how much we can know about the past, other species, and each other. The titular novella, which also won a World Fantasy Award, is a compelling fairy tale about a little orphan girl and her talking hen that poignantly interrogates the ways we determine which stories take center stage. Read more

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