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Tales of the Chinese Zodiac: Monkey, by Jenn Reese - Strange Horizons, 17 January 2005

Tales of the Chinese Zodiac: Monkey, by Jenn Reese

Strange Horizons has made a feature of their series of thematically-linked short-shorts over the last few years, with Ben Rosenbaum's Other Cities and Jay Lake's Rushes. This time Jenn Reese is providing the stories, one based on each of the signs of the Chinese Zodiac. First up is Monkey.

When lightning hits a widow's tree, twelve monkeys fall out. She gives all except one away to her neighbours and relatives. Over the months, all of these others bring luck and fortune to the people the widow has given them to. While the widow's own monkey is helpful, it doesn't seem to have brought her any particular luck. And each night she hears crashing and screeching in the kitchen from the monkey. Only when she hears a scream one night and goes to investigate does she find out the luck the monkey has been bringing her.

Short-shorts are hard to do well. Often, at the end, they seem to have been rather pointless, to have been more of a vignette than a story, or not to have been developed as fully as they should have been. In other words, good flash fiction is harder than it looks. Reese avoids all of these drawbacks, managing to give us a full story, with a good main character and a neat end. She draws a culture sparely but clearly. It is an impressive achievement and a neat story. I'm looking forward to the rest of this series.

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