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A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies

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It turns out that most librarians are secretly witches. They can smell what kind of book you need, and intuit the size of your fine from the slope of your shoulders. Our narrator isn’t just a witch and a librarian: she’s someone who cares about her patrons. So when a black teenage boy comes in with waves of yearning billowing off him, she does everything she can to help. B It turns out that most librarians are secretly witches. They can smell what kind of book you need, and intuit the size of your fine from the slope of your shoulders. Our narrator isn’t just a witch and a librarian: she’s someone who cares about her patrons. So when a black teenage boy comes in with waves of yearning billowing off him, she does everything she can to help. But how far will she go? Winner of the 2019 Hugo Award for Best Short Story and nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Short Story.


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It turns out that most librarians are secretly witches. They can smell what kind of book you need, and intuit the size of your fine from the slope of your shoulders. Our narrator isn’t just a witch and a librarian: she’s someone who cares about her patrons. So when a black teenage boy comes in with waves of yearning billowing off him, she does everything she can to help. B It turns out that most librarians are secretly witches. They can smell what kind of book you need, and intuit the size of your fine from the slope of your shoulders. Our narrator isn’t just a witch and a librarian: she’s someone who cares about her patrons. So when a black teenage boy comes in with waves of yearning billowing off him, she does everything she can to help. But how far will she go? Winner of the 2019 Hugo Award for Best Short Story and nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Short Story.

30 review for A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    My previously-posted review for the excellent (and Hugo award-winning) story "A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies" in this issue has disappeared because GR librarians are messing around with the short story listings again. So I'm reposting it here, along with a review for "Ghost Marriage" by P. Djeli Clark, from the same issue of Apex (RIP). Review first posted on Fantasy Literature. 5 easy and enthusiastic stars for "A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compen My previously-posted review for the excellent (and Hugo award-winning) story "A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies" in this issue has disappeared because GR librarians are messing around with the short story listings again. So I'm reposting it here, along with a review for "Ghost Marriage" by P. Djeli Clark, from the same issue of Apex (RIP). Review first posted on Fantasy Literature. 5 easy and enthusiastic stars for "A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies": Our narrator is both a librarian and a witch (all good librarians are, she claims), and one of her joys is giving library patrons the book they “need most.” So when the black teenager with the red backpack comes into the Maysville Public Library, located somewhere in the deep South, and latches onto a portal fantasy, she breathes him in and can tell he’s deeply, howlingly yearning for a way to escape this world and never come back.God save me from the yearners. The insatiable, the inconsolable, the ones who chafe and claw against the edges of the world. No book can save them. (That’s a lie. There are Books potent enough to save any mortal soul: books of witchery, augury, alchemy; books with wand-wood in their spines and moon-dust on their pages; books older than stones and wily as dragons. We give people the books they need most, except when we don’t.)So she feeds him a series of magical fantasies, knowing that’s not enough to truly help him. He needs a book that’s not just about magic, but a book that is magic. But sharing those types of books with library patrons is strictly forbidden. I loved the librarian/witch narrator’s voice and dry sense of humor. The details in this story are delicious. I have a major soft spot for library-themed fantasy, and Alix E. Harrow’s love for books and reading shines through in this imaginative tale, where books jostle on the shelves to try to attract the attention of readers, and a book that is returned with “the flashlight-smell of 3:00 a.m. on its final chapter [is] unbearably smug about it.” At the same time, you also feel the heartbreak and hopelessness this teenager feels in the foster care system. My favorite of the Hugo and Nebula nominated short stories. Don't miss it! 3.5 stars for "Ghost Marriage" by P. Djeli Clark, an African fantasy. Ayen, a widowed girl from the Djeng tribe, is wandering across the barren plains alone. After her husband Malith's death, the families agreed she would still belong to him in a "ghost marriage," given to his brother Yar (who already has three wives), but with any children born to her to be deemed of Malith's lineage. But things go wrong - very wrong - and now Ayen is traveling in search of the Blood Woman, a sorceress who she hopes can dissolve the ghost marriage. But this turns out to be problematic, for entirely unsuspected reasons. It's a richly imagined and atmospheric story, though it's not as unique and didn't pull me in as much as the other Clark stories I've read (one of which, The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington, just won the 2019 Nebula award, and I highly recommend it). Full review to come.

  2. 4 out of 5

    carol.

    Well that's fun: I managed to review this twice with the librarian shenanigans. Now kept permanently at: https://wordpress.com/post/clsiewert.... Well that's fun: I managed to review this twice with the librarian shenanigans. Now kept permanently at: https://wordpress.com/post/clsiewert....

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nataliya

    Oh, this story has its own listing now? Reposting review here (since I don’t know which posting will get hit by the next round of deletions: this or Apex Magazine one): ———— This story is told by the second kind of a librarian. Come again — which kind, you ask? Well, here you go: “(There have only ever been two kinds of librarians in the history of the world: the prudish, bitter ones with lipstick running into the cracks around their lips who believe the books are their personal property and pat Oh, this story has its own listing now? Reposting review here (since I don’t know which posting will get hit by the next round of deletions: this or Apex Magazine one): ———— This story is told by the second kind of a librarian. Come again — which kind, you ask? Well, here you go: “(There have only ever been two kinds of librarians in the history of the world: the prudish, bitter ones with lipstick running into the cracks around their lips who believe the books are their personal property and patrons are dangerous delinquents come to steal them; and witches).“ There are books that people want to read. And there are books that they *need*, which surpasses mere “want”. The second kind of librarians can tell. But there are rules: “Both of them mean the same thing: We give people the books they need, except when we don’t. Except when they need them most.” Sometimes what you need most is an escape. From life, from ordinary evils, from mundanity. Sometimes you are a yearner, and it’s really the matter of life or death. “I do my best to give people the books they need most. In grad school, they called it “ensuring readers have access to texts/materials that are engaging and emotionally rewarding,” and in my other kind of schooling, they called it “divining the unfilled spaces in their souls and filling them with stories and starshine,” but it comes to the same thing.“ It’s another one of those absolutely delightful stories that make you sigh with happiness. Well-written, perfectly developed for its length, and just lovely. Not to mention that any book set in a library already has a head start for the permanent spot in my heart. To quote Jo Walton, “I mean bookshops make a profit on selling you books, but libraries just sit there lending you books quietly out of the goodness of their hearts.“ Now I know that Alix Harrow is definitely not a one-hit wonder (I just read and loved her first novel, The Ten Thousand Doors of January). 5 stars. Read it here: https://www.apex-magazine.com/a-witch...

  4. 5 out of 5

    karen

    (There have only ever been two kinds of librarians in the history of the world: the prudish, bitter ones with lipstick running into the cracks around their lips who believe the books are their personal property and patrons are dangerous delinquents come to steal them; and witches). oh, man YES!!! i MEANT to spend the day reviewing this author's full-length novel The Ten Thousand Doors of January, which i finished last week and LOVED, but Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ beseeched me to read this story immediat (There have only ever been two kinds of librarians in the history of the world: the prudish, bitter ones with lipstick running into the cracks around their lips who believe the books are their personal property and patrons are dangerous delinquents come to steal them; and witches). oh, man YES!!! i MEANT to spend the day reviewing this author's full-length novel The Ten Thousand Doors of January, which i finished last week and LOVED, but Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ beseeched me to read this story immediately, and even though i had been planning to save it for my annual december short story advent calendar project, i'm so glad i obeyed, because it is a wonderful WONDERFUL story about books and magic and the librarians who oversee the realm where these two overlap. even though i am not currently working as a librarian (FEEL FREE TO HIRE ME, THO!), i have the degree, i am a substitute librarian at a high school, and i've been a bookseller for about a million years, and a lot of this story is about the part of librarianship/booksellerhood about which i am most passionate: readers' advisory, which practice is summed-up here with a little more magical flourish than any of my RA textbooks ever did: Because I am a librarian of the second sort, I almost always know what kind of book a person wants. It’s like a very particular smell rising off them which is instantly recognizable as Murder mystery or Political biography or Something kind of trashy but ultimately life-affirming, preferably with lesbians. I do my best to give people the books they need most. In grad school, they called it “ensuring readers have access to texts/materials that are engaging and emotionally rewarding,” and in my other kind of schooling, they called it “divining the unfilled spaces in their souls and filling them with stories and starshine,” but it comes to the same thing. this is a truly exceptional short story about the power of books—of the right book—to transport, rescue, sustain, a reader—to help them escape. it may be a more literal take on the theme than most, but it's incredibly life-affirming and feels like a love letter to those of us who really just want to be useful; to help connect the right reader with the right book at the right time, especially those special readers who know what they want to get out of a book, but don't know how to find the signal in the noise; The kind that let their eyes feather across the titles like trailing fingertips, heads cocked, with book-hunger rising off them like heatwaves from July pavement. i probably read it from a very self-centered perspective, but it gives hope to those of us still desperately seeking a forum in which this VERY IMPORTANT skill can also put food on our tables. books are important. the right book is important. I sent him home with The Count of Monte Cristo, partly because it requires your full attention and a flow chart to keep track of the plot and the kid needed distracting, but mostly because of what Edmund says on the second-to-last page: “… all human wisdom is summed up in these two words,—‘Wait and hope.’” But people can’t keep waiting and hoping forever. They fracture, they unravel, they crack open; they do something desperate and stupid and then you see their high school senior photo printed in the Ulysses Gazette, grainy and oversized, and you spend the next five years thinking: if only I’d given her the right book. a poignant and beautiful story that's strengthening my waiting-and-hoping muscles. read it for yourself here: https://www.apex-magazine.com/a-witch... come to my blog!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nataliya

    This is a review only for a brilliant Hugo-winning short story A Witch's Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix Harrow: This story is told by the second kind of a librarian. Come again — which kind, you ask? Well, here you go: “(There have only ever been two kinds of librarians in the history of the world: the prudish, bitter ones with lipstick running into the cracks around their lips who believe the books are their personal property and patrons are dangerous d This is a review only for a brilliant Hugo-winning short story A Witch's Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix Harrow: This story is told by the second kind of a librarian. Come again — which kind, you ask? Well, here you go: “(There have only ever been two kinds of librarians in the history of the world: the prudish, bitter ones with lipstick running into the cracks around their lips who believe the books are their personal property and patrons are dangerous delinquents come to steal them; and witches).“ There are books that people want to read. And there are books that they *need*, which surpasses mere “want”. The second kind of librarians can tell. But there are rules: “Both of them mean the same thing: We give people the books they need, except when we don’t. Except when they need them most.” Sometimes what you need most is an escape. From life, from ordinary evils, from mundanity. Sometimes you are a yearner, and it’s really the matter of life or death. “I do my best to give people the books they need most. In grad school, they called it “ensuring readers have access to texts/materials that are engaging and emotionally rewarding,” and in my other kind of schooling, they called it “divining the unfilled spaces in their souls and filling them with stories and starshine,” but it comes to the same thing.“ It’s another one of those absolutely delightful stories that make you sigh with happiness. Well-written, perfectly developed for its length, and just lovely. Not to mention that any book set in a library already has a head start for the permanent spot in my heart. To quote Jo Walton, “I mean bookshops make a profit on selling you books, but libraries just sit there lending you books quietly out of the goodness of their hearts.“ Now I know that Alix Harrow is definitely not a one-hit wonder (I just read and loved her first novel, The Ten Thousand Doors of January). 5 stars. Read it here: https://www.apex-magazine.com/a-witch...

  6. 5 out of 5

    PattyMacDotComma

    5★ “The books above him rustled and quivered; that kind of attention flatters them.” This is the story of a librarian who sees books and people rather differently than you and I might. She notices not only the moods of the patrons, but also the sulky, depressed attitudes of books that are outdated (they say Pluto is a planet), and the ones that just aren’t popular anymore. She has been watching a teenaged boy with a red backpack, sit reading in the aisle, ignoring other people who look suspicious o 5★ “The books above him rustled and quivered; that kind of attention flatters them.” This is the story of a librarian who sees books and people rather differently than you and I might. She notices not only the moods of the patrons, but also the sulky, depressed attitudes of books that are outdated (they say Pluto is a planet), and the ones that just aren’t popular anymore. She has been watching a teenaged boy with a red backpack, sit reading in the aisle, ignoring other people who look suspicious of a skinny black kid, assuming he’s just pretending to read. The books aren’t suspicious. They’re delighted! And our librarian knows it. “(There have only ever been two kinds of librarians in the history of the world: the prudish, bitter ones with lipstick running into the cracks around their lips who believe the books are their personal property and patrons are dangerous delinquents come to steal them; and witches).” No prizes for guessing which kind she is. She figures out what people need, and tries to press books on them that will help. Cartoon of librarian with sign saying Search Engine This picture does our librarian a disservice, as she is only in her thirties. She takes her role very seriously, and her concern and warmth are wonderful. She explains how she senses what people need, and one time, the library cart itself actually tosses an ‘appropriate’ book at someone’s feet. How tempting to pick it up! Illustration of an irresistible old book The kid has been reading one that had a magic portal, and I hope you’ll forgive the following artistic licence, as the image looks more like Cinderella than this boy with his red backpack. Use your literary imagination! Illustration of magic portal amongst shelves full of dusty old books The librarian’s search ninja skills are tested as she describes how libraries really work behind the scenes. It’s wonderful. Touching and appealing. I wish everyone had access to librarians like this (and not the lipsticked dragons). Do yourself a favour and read the story here https://www.apex-magazine.com/a-witch... My great thanks to GR friend Cecily for finding this one. Her lovely review is here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  7. 4 out of 5

    ✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans)

    “Ghost Marriage” by P. Djèlí Clark: 4.5 stars. “I am Ayen of the Akok. Thrice married. Once to the living. Once to the dead. Once to a god.” And just like that, P. Djèlí Clark does it again: a unique, magical story, a refreshingly non-Eurocentric as fish setting, amazing characters, and atmospheric as shrimp, mesmerizing writing. Need I say more? Didn't think so. Oh, and by the way, this somewhat glorious story can be read online for free here. So get clicking and stuff. P.S. Why most people ch “Ghost Marriage” by P. Djèlí Clark: 4.5 stars. “I am Ayen of the Akok. Thrice married. Once to the living. Once to the dead. Once to a god.” And just like that, P. Djèlí Clark does it again: a unique, magical story, a refreshingly non-Eurocentric as fish setting, amazing characters, and atmospheric as shrimp, mesmerizing writing. Need I say more? Didn't think so. Oh, and by the way, this somewhat glorious story can be read online for free here. So get clicking and stuff. P.S. Why most people choose to read only the Alix E. Harrow short in this issue is one of the greatest mysteries of the universe, if you ask me. Granted, it's slightly very good (as my review down there ↓↓ might attest to) but a P. Djèlí Clark story it is not. QED and stuff. “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” by Alix E. Harrow: 4 stars. Before reading this story, I thought not having access to a decent library was ever so slightly unacceptable. (But I guess that’s what I get for living on a god-forsaken island). After reading this story and realizing that a) all librarians are actually witches who give patrons the books they need most and b) books want to be read, not having access to a decent library makes me feel kinda sorta like… Oh, and by the way, this story is Slightly Very Good (SVG™) and stuff. Which might or might not be why it won both a Nebula and Hugo Award. Maybe. Perhaps. ↪ This is short. This is FREE. This is here. P.S. Edmond Dantès is full of shit fish, just so you know.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cecily

    I reviewed this story before it had its own GR listing, but the review content has been deleted and I can't edit it. The comments are good, though, HERE. My review is below (I'm glad I keep copies), at the second attempt (= starting at the start!): “Our first and purest purpose: to give patrons the books they need most… divining the unfilled spaces in their souls and filling them with stories and starshine.” This is a beautiful short story demonstrating the literally magical, transformative power o I reviewed this story before it had its own GR listing, but the review content has been deleted and I can't edit it. The comments are good, though, HERE. My review is below (I'm glad I keep copies), at the second attempt (= starting at the start!): “Our first and purest purpose: to give patrons the books they need most… divining the unfilled spaces in their souls and filling them with stories and starshine.” This is a beautiful short story demonstrating the literally magical, transformative power of the right book at the right time. It’s sensual, bittersweet, profound, and affirming, without ever being trite or sentimental. “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” ― Jorge Luis Borges. The internet is awash with photos of beautiful libraries, ancient and modern: Image: Real Gabinete Português de Leitura, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Source.) It’s easy to imagine books in such a place as being alive, needing to be read as much as we need to read them. We can picture the type of readers who “let their eyes feather across the titles like trailing fingertips, heads cocked, with book-hunger rising off them like heatwaves from July pavement”. But a tired municipal library, with a well-meaning adult guiding a troubled teen away from fantasy towards what they deem “helpful” isn’t obviously inspirational, let alone magical: Image: Antonio Durán Library, Huesca, Spain (Source.) But don’t be deceived. Magic isn’t always cloaked in shadows. “There have only ever been two kinds of librarians in the history of the world: the prudish, bitter ones with lipstick running into the cracks around their lips who believe the books are their personal property and patrons are dangerous delinquents come to steal them; and witches.” A sort of alchemy ensues from witchy and psychological insight and empathy: “Dark fingers touched green-dyed cloth, and it was like two sundered halves of some broken thing finally reuniting, like a lost key finally turning in its lock. Every book in the library rustled in unison, sighing at the sacred wholeness of reader and book.” Kindred Spirits “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” ― Neil Gaiman “People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons. From within.” ― Ursula K Le Guin Source of joke. Read it The story is HERE. It fully deserves its Nebula, Hugo and Apex Magazine awards of 2018.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Phrynne

    Patty put me on to this one and it is so, so good! It is just a short story which you can read online for free at https://www.apex-magazine.com/a-witch... The story is delightful, telling of a rather special librarian and some very special books. Considering the short length of the tale it includes a number of literary connections and an excellent character study of a young man who desperately needs to escape. Beautifully written and a real pleasure to read. Try it:) Patty put me on to this one and it is so, so good! It is just a short story which you can read online for free at https://www.apex-magazine.com/a-witch... The story is delightful, telling of a rather special librarian and some very special books. Considering the short length of the tale it includes a number of literary connections and an excellent character study of a young man who desperately needs to escape. Beautifully written and a real pleasure to read. Try it:)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    2019 UPDATE "A Witch's Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies" has won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story!! Many congratulations, Author Harrow! 5-star read. Perfect. Read it free. (There have only ever been two kinds of librarians in the history of the world: the prudish, bitter ones with lipstick running into the cracks around their lips who believe the books are their personal property and patrons are dangerous delinquents come to steal them; and witches.) *** Agnes always d 2019 UPDATE "A Witch's Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies" has won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story!! Many congratulations, Author Harrow! 5-star read. Perfect. Read it free. (There have only ever been two kinds of librarians in the history of the world: the prudish, bitter ones with lipstick running into the cracks around their lips who believe the books are their personal property and patrons are dangerous delinquents come to steal them; and witches.) *** Agnes always does the “we will be closing in ten minutes” announcement because something in her voice implies that anybody still in the library in nine minutes and fifty seconds will be harvested for organ donations, and even the most stationary patrons amble towards the exit. *** (All you people who never returned books to their high school libraries, or who bought stolen books off Amazon with call numbers taped to their spines? We see you.) Delight and deliciousness confected for your unworthy gaze. Don't let it slip out of your grasp.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    Disclaimer: I REALLY HATE how Goodreads doesn't allow pages for short stories. When I wrote this review, the short story was listed on its own, not as part of some magazine I know nothing about. *sighs* The title of the story I'm reviewing here is A Witch's Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies and it's by Alix Harrow. As is usual with short stories and/or novellas, I only found out about this when a friend of mine read and reviewed it because it is nominated for an award th Disclaimer: I REALLY HATE how Goodreads doesn't allow pages for short stories. When I wrote this review, the short story was listed on its own, not as part of some magazine I know nothing about. *sighs* The title of the story I'm reviewing here is A Witch's Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies and it's by Alix Harrow. As is usual with short stories and/or novellas, I only found out about this when a friend of mine read and reviewed it because it is nominated for an award this year. But, like the librarian in this story, I don't hold with award winners (or nominees) only so I actually like discovering certain stories this way only (in fact, I positively hunt them down on my GR timeline). ;) The story is that of a librarian. She's not only tattooed but also a witch. She can hear the books whisper, checks out the really old ones so they don't feel too bad/abandoned, and knows which human to pair with which book. She meets a black teen who only ever checks out one book, reads it repeatedly despite the ending, and who seems to be depressed. She pairs him with certain other books over time. A witch only ever helps those in need. What is so brilliant about this story is not just the books mentioned in it (which either make you nod in recognition or checking them online) that show just how well-read the author herself is. It's not the fluent and pretty writing style that combines the feel of a magical library (that made me think of dark wood, sunlight and times past) with modern titles and laser scanners. It's that I could hear the books whisper as well. How they spoke to the librarian, spying for her, helping her help the boy; that they had their very own personalities. As a bibliophile who strokes her books and talks to them, this was paradise and I wish it wasn't just a short story. There is tragedy, there is beauty, there is humour and ... books that need to be read as much as we need to read them. How many authors can write and publish a short story that makes you feel as if you had spent years in their cozy and comforting magical world that smells of paper and ink? Exactly! You can read the story for free here: https://www.apex-magazine.com/a-witch...

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dennis

    ***A Witch’s Guide To Escape: A Practical Compendium Of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow*** Anyone could see that kid needed to run and keep running until he shed his own skin, until he clawed out of the choking darkness and unfurled his wings, precious and prisming in the light of some other world. A nice little story about the escapism books can provide. The story is told from the perspective of a librarian that also happens to be a witch. She's trying to find the right book for a seemingly ***A Witch’s Guide To Escape: A Practical Compendium Of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow*** Anyone could see that kid needed to run and keep running until he shed his own skin, until he clawed out of the choking darkness and unfurled his wings, precious and prisming in the light of some other world. A nice little story about the escapism books can provide. The story is told from the perspective of a librarian that also happens to be a witch. She's trying to find the right book for a seemingly depressed boy. Several popular books are mentioned and I have to confess that I've not read many of them. Otherwise I might have enjoyed this a little more. Still, the subtle humor and clear love for books that's oozing from the page just about lifts this into four star territory. I'm planning to read it again in a few years' time. You can read it here. Winner of the 2019 Hugo Award for Best Short Story 2018 Nebula Award finalist for Best Short Story ____________________________ 2019 Hugo Award Finalists Best Novel • The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal • Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers • Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee • Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente • Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik • Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse Best Novella • Artificial Condition by Martha Wells • Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire • Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor • The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark • Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson • The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard Best Novelette • If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again by Zen Cho (Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog) • The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections by Tina Connolly (Tor.com) • Nine Last Days on Planet Earth by Daryl Gregory (Tor.com) • The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander (Tor.com) • The Thing About Ghost Stories by Naomi Kritzer (Uncanny Magazine) • When We Were Starless by Simone Heller (Clarkesworld Magazine) Best Short Story • The Court Magician by Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed Magazine) • The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society by T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine) • The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington by P. Djèlí Clark (Fireside Magazine) • STET by Sarah Gailey (Fireside Magazine) • The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine) • A Witch’s Guide To Escape: A Practical Compendium Of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow (Apex Magazine) Best Series • The Centenal Cycle by Malka Older • The Laundry Files by Charles Stross • Machineries of Empire by Yoon Ha Lee • The October Daye Series by Seanan McGuire • The Universe of Xuya by Aliette de Bodard • Wayfarers by Becky Chambers Best Related Work • Archive of Our Own, a project of the Organization for Transformative Works • Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction by Alec Nevala-Lee • The Hobbit Duology (a documentary in three parts), written and edited by Lindsay Ellis and Angelina Meehan • An Informal History of the Hugos: A Personal Look Back at the Hugo Awards 1953-2000 by Jo Walton • The Mexicanx Initiative Experience at Worldcon 76 by Julia Rios, Libia Brenda, Pablo Defendini, and John Picacio • Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing by Ursula K. Le Guin with David Naimon Best Graphic Story • Abbott, written by Saladin Ahmed, art by Sami Kivelä, colors by Jason Wordie, letters by Jim Campbell • Black Panther: Long Live the King, written by Nnedi Okorafor and Aaron Covington, art by André Lima Araújo, Mario Del Pennino, and Tana Ford • Monstress, Volume 3: Haven, written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda • On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden • Paper Girls, Volume 4 , written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Cliff Chiang, colors by Matt Wilson, letters by Jared K. Fletcher • Saga, Volume 9, written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples Best Art Book • The Book of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition illustrated by Charles Vess, written by Ursula K. Le Guin • Daydreamer’s Journey: The Art of Julie Dillon by Julie Dillon • Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, and Sam Witwer • Spectrum 25: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, editor John Fleskes • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – The Art of the Movie by Ramin Zahed • Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth, editor Catherine McIlwaine Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt; Macmillan Children’s Books) • The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (Freeform / Gollancz) • The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (Little, Brown / Hot Key Books) • Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (Balzer + Bray) • The Invasion by Peadar O’Guilin (David Fickling Books / Scholastic) • Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman (Random House / Penguin Teen) _________________ 2018 Nebula Award Finalists Best Novel • The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor) • The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager US; Harper Voyager UK) • Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller (Ecco; Orbit UK) • Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (Del Rey; Macmillan) • Witchmark by C.L. Polk (Tor.com Publishing) • Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga) Best Novella • Fire Ant by Jonathan P. Brazee (Semper Fi) • The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing) • The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean) • Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield (Tor.com Publishing) • Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson (Tor.com Publishing) • Artificial Condition by Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing) Best Novelette • The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander (Tor.com Publishing) • The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections by Tina Connolly (Tor.com 7/11/18) • An Agent of Utopia by Andy Duncan (An Agent of Utopia) • The Substance of My Lives, the Accidents of Our Births by José Pablo Iriarte (Lightspeed 1/18) • The Rule of Three by Lawrence M. Schoen (Future Science Fiction Digest 12/18) • Messenger by Yudhanjaya Wijeratne and R.R. Virdi (Expanding Universe, Volume 4) Best Short Story • Interview for the End of the World by Rhett C. Bruno (Bridge Across the Stars) • The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington by Phenderson Djèlí Clark (Fireside 2/18) • Going Dark by Richard Fox (Backblast Area Clear) • And Yet by A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny 3-4/18) • A Witch’s Guide To Escape: A Practical Compendium Of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow (Apex 2/6/18) • The Court Magician by Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed 1/18) Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt; Macmillan) • Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi (Rick Riordan Presents) • A Light in the Dark by A.K. Du Boff (BDL) • Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman (Random House) • Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (Balzer + Bray) • Peasprout Chen: Future Legend of Skate and Sword by Henry Lien (Henry Holt)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    Delightful short story! But then, I'm always a sucker for libraries, librarians, book discussions, and anything that throws the yoke off our necks. :) Want some Harry Potter? How about some The Count of Monte Cristo? How about we just live there a bit, shall we? Ah, well, we only have a short story here, but at least the feels are here. :) Delightful short story! But then, I'm always a sucker for libraries, librarians, book discussions, and anything that throws the yoke off our necks. :) Want some Harry Potter? How about some The Count of Monte Cristo? How about we just live there a bit, shall we? Ah, well, we only have a short story here, but at least the feels are here. :)

  14. 5 out of 5

    fourtriplezed

    This isn’t how it is meant to be. I awake without the alarm, it is dark and it is raining heavily. I wander downstairs and make coffee and decide to read a few reviews and then get a few pages in of my present book before heading on the insufferable freeway to go to work. Thunder starts and I check the radar. There is rain aplenty. I sip the coffee and the first review is of this short story. It seems promising, so I hit the link offered and read along with the audio. I have never done that befo This isn’t how it is meant to be. I awake without the alarm, it is dark and it is raining heavily. I wander downstairs and make coffee and decide to read a few reviews and then get a few pages in of my present book before heading on the insufferable freeway to go to work. Thunder starts and I check the radar. There is rain aplenty. I sip the coffee and the first review is of this short story. It seems promising, so I hit the link offered and read along with the audio. I have never done that before, I think to myself. About 40 minutes later, a clap of thunder roars over head as I read/listen to the last line. Timing is everything, I suppose. My coffee has gone cold. It is still raining.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Justine

    Review for: A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix Harrow Wow. Just so good. His caseworker was one of those people who say the word “escapism” as if it’s a moral failing, a regrettable hobby, a mental-health diagnosis. As if escape is not, in itself, one of the highest order of magics they’ll ever see in their miserable mortal lives, right up there with true love and prophetic dreams and fireflies blinking in synchrony on a June evening. Read it for free here Review for: A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix Harrow Wow. Just so good. His caseworker was one of those people who say the word “escapism” as if it’s a moral failing, a regrettable hobby, a mental-health diagnosis. As if escape is not, in itself, one of the highest order of magics they’ll ever see in their miserable mortal lives, right up there with true love and prophetic dreams and fireflies blinking in synchrony on a June evening. Read it for free here: https://www.apex-magazine.com/a-witch...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂

    My review is for A Witch's Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix Harrow and Interview with Alix Harrow by Andrea Johnson only. Enchanting Really the only word that can be used to describe this longish short story. I entered the Witch Librarian's library - and I didn't want to leave. Books can do magic, can create a world for the lost, bewildered and lonely. Ms Harrow understands this. I'm excited by the depth and complexity of Ms Har My review is for A Witch's Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix Harrow and Interview with Alix Harrow by Andrea Johnson only. Enchanting Really the only word that can be used to describe this longish short story. I entered the Witch Librarian's library - and I didn't want to leave. Books can do magic, can create a world for the lost, bewildered and lonely. Ms Harrow understands this. I'm excited by the depth and complexity of Ms Harrow's imagination and look forward to reading more of her work. It's only September, but I am going to call this my best short story read of 2019. Great interview by Andrea Johnson - which shows she also has a vivid imagination! Brief, but witty and informative. 5★ Want to change Goodreads policy on short stories? If you want to talk to staff about it here is the link. https://www.goodreads.com/about/conta... Librarians are volunteers - we have little to no influence on Goodreads policies. On the rare occasions that Goodreads backs down, you need Librarians prepared to do the reversals and usually have active Librarians either stop doing the edits or only do their own. Just saying. More chance of success would be to ask if the authors concerned if they would put the short stories on their own website. If the story is on their website, it would have to be unconditionally available. (readers not required to join a mailing list for example). https://wordpress.com/view/carolshess...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gabrielle

    “Books need to be read quite as much as we need to read them.” This is one of those perfect short stories: one more word, and it would have been too much. The pleasure of reading it has to be furtive, a stolen quarter of an hour, hiding the screen of your smartphone from colleagues so they can’t see what you are doing instead of working. If they are the book and library-loving type, they’d forgive you. I very strongly believe books can save people, can change them, can give them the tools they nee “Books need to be read quite as much as we need to read them.” This is one of those perfect short stories: one more word, and it would have been too much. The pleasure of reading it has to be furtive, a stolen quarter of an hour, hiding the screen of your smartphone from colleagues so they can’t see what you are doing instead of working. If they are the book and library-loving type, they’d forgive you. I very strongly believe books can save people, can change them, can give them the tools they need to live better lives. A story like “A Witch’s Guide to Escape” encapsulates that idea and brings it to life in a handful of pages, where a very special librarian helps a lonely child find the book he needs the most. I like to think that books really do have a life of their own, that they enjoy being in our hands just as much as we like to hold them, and sniff them and cry into them. So this lovely, opinionated unnamed narrator had me on her side instantly. I think missed my calling : I should have been a librarian witch. Few things make me happier than to find a loving home for good books. I love browsing a messy used bookstore, find a weird thing and think to myself: “Oh, Jason/Erika/Amanda would love this!” and taking it home, as if I was sneaking a priceless treasure in my old tote bag. I push books on my nephews as if they were life-saving tools, which, you know, they are! I can’t be there to read with them, sadly, but I’m counting on those books to keep an eye on the boys for me. I can’t give a story like this anything less than 5 stars. Ms. Harrow, I hope you get all the awards! I’m going home to sniff my books now… https://www.apex-magazine.com/a-witch...

  18. 5 out of 5

    Fiona

    Review is for A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies, by Alix E. Harrow. Absolutely heartbreaking, but hopeful - it made me cry, and that is rare enough to remark on it. A thoroughly beautiful piece of short fiction, that's available free here: https://www.apex-magazine.com/a-witch... Go read it. Review is for A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies, by Alix E. Harrow. Absolutely heartbreaking, but hopeful - it made me cry, and that is rare enough to remark on it. A thoroughly beautiful piece of short fiction, that's available free here: https://www.apex-magazine.com/a-witch... Go read it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Antoinette

    Alix E Harrow has written a treasure of a story that all book lovers can swoon at. This story is about the power of books and how the right book at the right time can heal and renew us! Thanks to Cecily whose review brought me to this story and who also provided the link!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    Review for A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow, 4.900 words, ~11 pages, ★★★★★ You’d think it would make us happy when a kid checks out the same book a zillion times in a row, but actually it just keeps us up at night. Oh, I love that the books have feelings! A smug book, how great is that? “oh, Tolkien, you have so much to account for“ Lol! This was absolutely delightful. I love it! Fabulous! I cried! All the stars! Can be read for free here: https:/ Review for A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow, 4.900 words, ~11 pages, ★★★★★ You’d think it would make us happy when a kid checks out the same book a zillion times in a row, but actually it just keeps us up at night. Oh, I love that the books have feelings! A smug book, how great is that? “oh, Tolkien, you have so much to account for“ Lol! This was absolutely delightful. I love it! Fabulous! I cried! All the stars! Can be read for free here: https://www.apex-magazine.com/a-witch... 2018 Nebula Award Finalists / 2019 Hugo Award Finalists — well deserved!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Schizanthus Nerd

    A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies is a 2019 Hugo Awards finalist in the Best Short Story category. He reached towards the book and the book reached back towards him, because books need to be read quite as much as we need to read them I first read this short story three months ago and loved it. When I was about to begin my reread I realised that it was written by Alix E. Harrow. I have been fortunate enough to secure an advanced copy of their debut novel, A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies is a 2019 Hugo Awards finalist in the Best Short Story category. He reached towards the book and the book reached back towards him, because books need to be read quite as much as we need to read them I first read this short story three months ago and loved it. When I was about to begin my reread I realised that it was written by Alix E. Harrow. I have been fortunate enough to secure an advanced copy of their debut novel, The Ten Thousand Doors of January. While it hasn’t reached the top of my to be read pile yet I’ve had a sneak peek and it definitely looks like my kind of book. After rereading this short story I now can’t wait to read it. Anyone could see that kid needed to run and keep running until he shed his own skin, until he clawed out of the choking darkness and unfurled his wings, precious and prisming in the light of some other world. I love magic portals, libraries and witches, so this story hit one of my literary trifectas. Books can be life changing and the right one can even save your life. This is a story about a librarian who connects readers with books by “divining the unfilled spaces in their souls and filling them with stories and starshine”, a foster child and one of those books. You can read this short story online here. Content warnings include mention of death by suicide and depression.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Becca

    I don't always review short stories, but people need to know about this one, which I was lucky to stumble upon a link to in a GR friend's review of something else. This is one of the best things I read all year. Like goosebumps, mixed with trying to pick out key quotes that kept spiraling from a sentence to a paragraph to a page of amazing prose. This very light fantasy story is about what books mean to us -- how they can speak to our emotions and how the right book can guide us through hard tim I don't always review short stories, but people need to know about this one, which I was lucky to stumble upon a link to in a GR friend's review of something else. This is one of the best things I read all year. Like goosebumps, mixed with trying to pick out key quotes that kept spiraling from a sentence to a paragraph to a page of amazing prose. This very light fantasy story is about what books mean to us -- how they can speak to our emotions and how the right book can guide us through hard times. It is poignant and very funny. Don't take my word for it -- go read: https://apex-magazine.com/a-witchs-gu...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mitticus

    3.7 printed stars review movida al compendio de la revista- /y no ganó al final el nebula de este año/ A Witch's Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix Harrow Keepers of the worlds, or just justified escapism? I don’t bother with the people who have call numbers scribbled on their palms and titles rattling around in their skulls like bingo cards. They don’t need me. And you really can’t do anything for the people who only read Award-Winning Literature, who wear elbow 3.7 printed stars review movida al compendio de la revista- /y no ganó al final el nebula de este año/ A Witch's Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix Harrow Keepers of the worlds, or just justified escapism? I don’t bother with the people who have call numbers scribbled on their palms and titles rattling around in their skulls like bingo cards. They don’t need me. And you really can’t do anything for the people who only read Award-Winning Literature, who wear elbow patches and equate the popularity of Twilight with the death of the American intellect; their hearts are too closed-up for the new or secret or undiscovered. Relato corto acerca de una biblioteca y ciertas bibliotecarias. Cuando un adolescente parece perdido y en necesidad de ayuda , es cuando una bibliotecaria que es bruja aunque tiene prohibido exponer ciertascosas es cuando debate acerca de portales y libros de fantasia y lectores . Hay comentaria social y tambien tal vez realismo epico o magico.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lata

    A contender for a 2019 Hugo: What a wonderful story about a lonely and desperate kid and the librarian/witch who gives him books to ease his loneliness. And the power of a story to transform a mood or a life.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    DAMMIT THE GOODREADS LIBRARIANS DID IT AGAIN!!! The last three sentences were for a short story, that apparently I loved, but I didn’t write the title or author of the story and now, the GRLN decided to mush my review into the anthology from which the story came and I wasn’t notified and they weren’t HUMAN enough to leave the title or author at the bottom of my review so I would know which story this referred to. I don’t care if they do this, but either NOTIFY the reviewer or be nice enough to le DAMMIT THE GOODREADS LIBRARIANS DID IT AGAIN!!! The last three sentences were for a short story, that apparently I loved, but I didn’t write the title or author of the story and now, the GRLN decided to mush my review into the anthology from which the story came and I wasn’t notified and they weren’t HUMAN enough to leave the title or author at the bottom of my review so I would know which story this referred to. I don’t care if they do this, but either NOTIFY the reviewer or be nice enough to leave the title and author on the review so if I wanted to read other works by that author, I can track them down. This story, five stars, apparently. GoodReads Librarians? NEGATIVE 50 MILLION STARS. Absolutely. Perfect. 5, library love, stars.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    oh my. oh my, my, my, my. This is how it's done. read for free here oh my. oh my, my, my, my. This is how it's done. read for free here

  27. 5 out of 5

    aarya

    I’m not a person who reads short stories a lot, but this is fun. This rating is only for Alix E. Harrow’s “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies.” Free online: https://www.apex-magazine.com/a-witch... I’m not a person who reads short stories a lot, but this is fun. This rating is only for Alix E. Harrow’s “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies.” Free online: https://www.apex-magazine.com/a-witch...

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jeanne

    There have only ever been two kinds of librarians in the history of the world: the prudish, bitter ones with lipstick running into the cracks around their lips who believe the books are their personal property and patrons are dangerous delinquents come to steal them; and witches. Our narrator is clearly of the Second Kind. A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies describes the relationship between a Librarian of the Second Kind and a depressed, lost foster child, yearn There have only ever been two kinds of librarians in the history of the world: the prudish, bitter ones with lipstick running into the cracks around their lips who believe the books are their personal property and patrons are dangerous delinquents come to steal them; and witches. Our narrator is clearly of the Second Kind. A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies describes the relationship between a Librarian of the Second Kind and a depressed, lost foster child, yearning to escape. She wants to help him, but is caught betwixt and between – being true to her witchy self and the rules that bind her, but also being true to this Lonely Boy in the Red Backpack. Our Librarian of the Second Kind – who doesn't have a name in this story – has more character than those peopling 800-page novels. Her voice is compelling not only because she recognizes the true magic in books and their healing power. I sent him a ’70s sword-and-sorcery series because it was total junk food and he needed fattening up, and because I hoped sixteen volumes might act as a sort of ballast and keep his keening soul from rising away into the ether. I let Le Guin shimmer at him, too, because he reminded me a bit of Ged (feral; full of longing). Our Librarian of the Second Kind also recognizes the danger in giving someone the wrong book (The Count of Monte Cristo) and the power of the right book (A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies). Luckily, we've been given the right one. And him? Who is The Lonely Boy in the Red Backpack? He smelled of a thousand secret worlds, of rabbit-holes and hidden doorways and platforms nine-and-three-quarters, of Wonderland and Oz and Narnia, of anyplace-but-here. He smelled of yearning. Ah! Yearning! There is Yearning Towards and Yearning Away. He is definitely yearning of the Second Kind. [I never use this many caps – and Alix Harrow didn't either, please forgive me – but this story pulls them from me.] Somewhere along the line, you forgot our first and purest purpose: to give patrons the books they need most. And oh, how they need. How they will always need. I will remember. Thank you, Cecily, for reviewing this story and capturing my imagination.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Silvana

    Review only for A Witch's Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” by Alix E. Harrow: Everything I ever want in a (short) story. Well-written, concise, fun, but immersive enough within the space of 7,499 words. Anyone who likes books/reading/library must read this. Especially those who think that your local librarian is hiding something yet somehow always able to recommend books that suit you 😏 Review only for A Witch's Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” by Alix E. Harrow: Everything I ever want in a (short) story. Well-written, concise, fun, but immersive enough within the space of 7,499 words. Anyone who likes books/reading/library must read this. Especially those who think that your local librarian is hiding something yet somehow always able to recommend books that suit you 😏

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)

    Another short story I’ve been meaning to get to and I’m so glad that I finally did — A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow. You can read it here: https://apex-magazine.com/a-witchs-gu... After reading The Once and Future Witches by Harrow, I’ll read anything she writes! In this short story, Harrow lets readers in on a little secret: most librarians are witches. The librarian in this story cares about her patrons, taking special notice of those in Another short story I’ve been meaning to get to and I’m so glad that I finally did — A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow. You can read it here: https://apex-magazine.com/a-witchs-gu... After reading The Once and Future Witches by Harrow, I’ll read anything she writes! In this short story, Harrow lets readers in on a little secret: most librarians are witches. The librarian in this story cares about her patrons, taking special notice of those in need of a particular book and making sure it ends up in their hands at the right time. When a Black teen repeatedly visits yearning for other worlds, the librarian does her best to open them for him. After learning his living situation, she must decide if she’s willing to break the rules to help him perform a great escape. A Witch’s Guide to Escape packs a solid punch with the quirky narrator, creative back story for librarians, and the literal take on books as portals of escape. For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com

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