Firebirds: An Anthology of Original Fantasy and Science Fictionby Lloyd Alexander, Michael Cadnum, Kara Dalkey, Nancy Farmer
Firebirds is more than simply an anthology -- it is a celebration of wonderful writing. It gathers together sixteen original stories by some of today's finest writers of fantasy and science fiction. Together, they have won virtually every major prize -- from the National Book Award to the World Fantasy Award to the Newbery Medal -- and have made best-seller lists worldwide. These authors, including Lloyd Alexander (The Chronicles of Prydain), Diana Wynne Jones (The Merlin Conspiracy), Garth Nix (The Abhorsen Trilogy), Patricia A. McKillip (Ombria in Shadow), Meredith Ann Pierce (The Darkangel Trilogy), and Nancy Farmer (The House of the Scorpion), each with his or her own inimitable style, tell stories that will entertain, provoke, startle, amuse, and resonate long after the last page has been turned.
The writers featured in Firebirds all share a connection to Firebird Books, an imprint that is dedicated to publishing the best fantasy and science fiction for teenage and adult readers.
This anthology marks a milestone for Firebird -- and is a must-read for all teenage and adult fans of speculative fiction.
Read an Excerpt
One dusty, slow morning in the summer of 1922, a passenger was left crying on the platform when the milk train pulled out of Denilburg after its five minute stop. No one noticed at first, what with the whistle from the train and the billowing steam and smoke and the labouring of the steel wheels upon the rails. The milk carter was busy with the cans, the station master with the mail. No one else was about, not when the full dawn was still half a cup of coffee away.
When the train had rounded the corner, taking its noise with it, the crying could be clearly heard. Milk carter and station master both looked up from their work and saw the source of the noise.
A baby, tightly swaddled in a pink blanket, was precariously balanced on a large steamer trunk on the very edge of the platform. With every cry and wriggle, the baby was moving closer to the side of the trunk. If she fell, she'd fall not only from the trunk, but from the platform, down to the rails four feet below.
The carter jumped over his cans, knocking two over, his heels splashing in the spilt milk. The stationmaster dropped his sack, letters and packets cascading out to meet the milk.
They each got a hand under the baby at the very second it rolled off the trunk. Both men went over the edge of the platform, and they trod on each other's feet as they landed, hard and painful -- but upright. The baby was perfectly balanced between them.
That's how Alice May Susan Hopkins came to Denilburg, and that's how she got two unrelated uncles with the very same first name, her Uncle Bill Carey the station master and her Uncle Bill Hoogener, the milk carter.
The first thing the two Bills noticed when they caught the baby was a note pinned to the pink blanket. It was on fine ivory paper, the words in blue-black ink that caught the sun and glinted when you held it just so. It said: "Alice May Susan, born on the Summer Solstice, 1921. Look after her and she'll look after you."
It didn't take long for the news of Alice May Susan's arrival to get around the town, and it wasn't more than fifteen minutes later that fifty per cent of the town's grown women were all down at the station, the thirty-eight of them clustering around that poor baby enough to suffocate her. Fortunately it was only a few minutes more till Eulalie Falkirk took charge, as she always did, and established a roster for hugging and kissing and gawking and fussing and worrying and gossiping over the child.
Over the next few months that roster changed to include actually looking after little Alice May Susan. She was handed from one married woman to the next, changing her surname from month to month as she went from family to family. She was a dear little girl, everyone said, and Eulalie Falkirk was hard put to decide who should adopt the child.
Her final decision came down to one simple thing. While all the womenfolk had been busy with the baby, most of the menfolk had been taking their turn trying to open up that steamer trunk.
The trunk looked easy enough. It was about six feet long, three feet wide and two foot high. It had two leather straps around it and an old brass lock, the kind with a keyhole big enough to put your whole finger in. Only no one did after Torrance Yib put his in and it came back with the tip missing, cut off clean as you please right at the joint.
The straps wouldn't come undone either, and whatever they were, it wasn't any leather anyone in Denilburg had ever seen. It wouldn't cut and it wouldn't tear and those straps drove everyone who tried them mad with frustration.
There was some talk of devilment and foreign magic, till Bill Carey -- who knew more about luggage than the rest of the town put together -- pointed out the brass plate on the underside that read 'Made in the U.S.A. Imp. Pat. Pend. Burglar-proof trunk'. Then everyone was proud and said it was scientific progress and what a pity it was the name of the company had got scratched off, for they'd get some good business in Denilburg if only they knew where to send their orders.
The only man in the whole town who hadn't tried to open the trunk was Jake Hopkins the druggist, so when Stella Hopkins said they'd like to take baby Alice May Susan on, Eulalie Falkirk knew it wasn't because they wanted whatever was in the trunk.
So Alice May Susan joined the Hopkins household and grew up with Jake and Stella's born daughters Janice, Jessie and Jane, who at the time were ten, eight and four. The steamer trunk was put in the attic and Alice May Susan, to all intents and purposes, became another Hopkins girl. No one out of the ordinary, just a typical Denilburg girl, the events of her life pretty much interchangeable with the sisters who had gone before her.
Until the year she turned sixteen, in nineteen thirty-seven.
Meet the Author
Few writers have inspired as much affection and interest among readers young and old as Lloyd Alexander, and few writers have won so many literary honors. Most of his books have been written in the form of fantasy. But fantasy, Alexander believes, is merely one of many ways to express attitudes and feelings about real people, real human relationships and problems. "My concern is how we learn to be genuine human beings. I never have found out all I want to know about writing and realize I never will. All that writers can do is keep trying to say what is deepest in their hearts. If writers learn more from their books than do readers, perhaps I may have begun to learn."
Meredith Ann Pierce is one of America's premiere fantasy writers. Along with her Darkangel books, the Firebringer Trilogy is among her best and most well-known work-but it has never been in paperback. This classic saga of Jan, the warrior unicorn prince and his herd's only hope, is compelling reading for horse lovers, fantasy fans, and anyone who relishes a crackling good adventure. Meredith Ann pierce lives in Micanopy, Florida.
Michael Cadnum is the award-winning author of more than a dozen books for adults and young adults, including the contemporary novels Rundown, Heat, and Edge (all Viking) and the historical novel In a Dark Wood (Orchard/Puffin). Michael Cadnum lives in Albany, California.
Nancy Springer has published forty novels for adults, young adults and children. In a career beginning shortly after she graduated from Gettysburg College in 1970, Springer wrote for ten years in the imaginary realms of mythological fantasy, then ventured on contemporary fantasy, magical realism, and women's fiction before turning her attention to children's literature. Her novels and stories for middle-grade and young adults range from contemporary realism, mystery/crime, and fantasy to her critically acclaimed novels based on the Arthurian mythos, I AM MORDRED: A TALE OF CAMELOT and I AM MORGAN LE FAY. Springer's children's books have won her two Edgar Allan Poe awards, a Carolyn W. Field award, various Children's Choice honors and numerous ALA Best Book listings. Her most recent series include the Tales of Rowan Hood, featuring Robin Hood’s daughter, and the Enola Holmes mysteries, starring the much younger sister of Sherlock Holmes.
Ms. Springer lives in East Berlin, Pennsylvania.
Patricia A. McKillip is a winner of the World Fantasy Award, and the author of many fantasy novels, including The Riddlemaster of Hed trilogy, Stepping from the Shadows, and The Cygnet and the Firebird. She lives in Oregon.
Over the past twenty-four years, Nina Kiriki Hoffman has sold novels, juvenile and media tie-in books, short story collections, and more than two hundred short stories. Her works have been finalists for the Nebula, World Fantasy, Mythopoeic, Sturgeon, and Endeavour awards. Her first novel, The Thread That Binds the Bones, won a Stoker Award. Nina's YA novel Spirits that Walk in Shadow and her science fiction novel Catalyst were published in 2006. Her fantasy novel Fall of Light will be published by Ace Books in May.
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