Scenting the Dark and Other Stories

Scenting the Dark and Other Stories

Illustration By Sandro Castelli

These things await you: Love and hope in the aftermath of a very personal environmental apocalypse. Fear that comes in being trapped in your own body, enslaved by your own faulty synapses. Dread in a cure that works in unexpected ways. Discovery of what you've always known, but couldn't face, about your own lover.

Explore these and more in the seven beautiful, wounded landscapes of Scenting the Dark, the first collection from Campbell Award-winner Mary Robinette Kowal. Her lean, vigorous style has been satisfying readers since 2006, including multiple appearances in Year's Best lists. The stories here lay bare the ways we try to prevent, contain and repair the damaged world around us, the further harm we can cause by trying, and why every moment of joyous, defiant struggle is worth it--if you have love enough, and hope.

Limited: 500 signed numbered hardcovers

Table of Contents

  • Portrait of Ari
  • Death Comes but Twice
  • Some Other Day
  • Just Right
  • Scenting the Dark
  • Locked in
  • This Little Pig
  • Jaiden’s Weaver

From Publishers Weekly:
“Campbell Award-winner Kowal presents a broad spectrum of stories in her chapbook-slim first collection… This excellent introduction to her work is likely to make her new fans.”

From SF Site:
"Mary Robinette Kowal's early writing career shows tremendous promise, and this short book serves a fine introduction to her work to date -- all the more impressive in that she has published plenty of other fine stories not reprinted here."

by John Scalzi

I’ve been asked to explain a bit to you what it is about Mary Robinette Kowal’s work that makes it so distinctively readable. To which I say: Gladly. Here are some things that come directly to mind.

1. Mary Robinette Kowal is from the U.S. south, specifically from the Chattanooga, Tennessee area. This means two things. First, she has truly impeccable social manners and a personal style that will relax you and put you at ease. Second, and as a consequence of the first, she is astoundingly sharp at observing humans up close and personal without them knowing she is observing them. This second datum is a key to her writing.

2. Before she became well-known as a writer of fantasy and science fiction, Mary was an award-winning puppeteer—she’s experienced in the ways of wrenching honest emotions from an audience using only bits of fabric, wood and string. If you don’t think this is excellent training for wrenching emotions out of people using words, I invite you to think about it some more.

3. Mary’s work as a puppeteer and an actress has also given her lots of experience passing dialogue and exposition out of her mouth, allowing her to feel what works on an audience and what doesn’t. And if you think that doesn’t matter to your prose, you really really really need to think about it more. Really.

4. Mary also spent eighteen months in Iceland, soaking in that island nation’s isolation, strangeness and scenery and letting the myths, legends and severe beauty of that land steep into her writing. And then she spent two years in Manhattan, soaking in that island nation’s strangeness and legends as well. I don’t imagine I need to spell out how both of these work to her advantage when she sets to work creating her own myths and legends in strange new places.

Fold each of these elements into the writers’ mixing bowl, and add in Mary’s own senses of humor and empathy and intelligence, and what you get are stories of high enough quality that when Mary was announced as the Campbell Award Winner for Best New Writer at the 2008 Worldcon in Denver, the only person in the room who seemed genuinely shocked by the award was the winner herself (because in addition to being funny and smart and empathetic, she’s also charmingly self-effacing when it comes to her talent). The rest of us were unsurprised because we saw in her stories what everything noted above had put into them: A unique sense of place—a unique terroir, to borrow from wine terminology—that comes from her combination of life experience and personality. You don’t mistake Mary Robinette Kowal’s stories for someone else’s. I don’t at least. Perhaps some other Campbell-winning Southern-raised, Iceland-and-Manhattan-inhabiting puppeteer/writer could manage, but you know what, I’m not going to wait around for that combination to happen again just to test a hypothesis. Instead, I’m going to walk around in these stories again. They’re great places to explore.

—John Scalzi, Freelance Troublemaker

Sandro Castelli
Mary Robinette Kowal
80 pages
United States
Subterranean Press
Out of Print