I read "Souls of Living Wood" last night, the Eugie Foster story in Modern Magic. I hate singling out stories in anthologies I'm in, out of fear of offending other contributors, but, wow, this was a terrific story. I had high hopes for it, since Eugie was a fellow Phobos award winner. The story exceeded my hopes. It has the most unexpected character I've yet encounted in the anthology, or just about anywhere in a long time--a talking house. Of course, the house can't talk to just anyone, but there's a real estate agent who, without giving away too much of the story, has what I can best describe as the oddest superpower I've ever heard of--the ability to talk to houses, and have the houses talk back. It's ideas like this that draw me to science fiction and fantasy. I'm 42 years old; I've read, I dunno, a zillion stories in my life, and it's rare that I run into concepts that I've never seen before. I'm jaded. Finding an original idea gives me a buzzy, drunken feeling as my thoughts crowd around to examine the newcomer. It gets me excited again about the power of words.
Even better, Eugie takes this original idea and builds a terrific, moving story around it. Sometimes, great ideas get stuck in stories that don't live up to their promise, but Eugie follows through with lovely writing, a captivating plot, and strong performances from the other characters in the story, all of whom come to life with an amazing economy of words. The stories only five pages long--I'm guessing the word count is probably only 2,000 words. Quite an accomplishment.