Human for a Day
Edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Jennifer Brazek
Cover Artist: Shutterstock
Review by Cathy Green
DAW Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780756407001
Date: 06 December 2011 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Human For A Day, a recent anthology of 16 original short stories from DAW Books, explores what it means to be human through the lens of various nonhuman entities such as dogs, swords, comic book characters, robots, and even an entire city that find themselves incarnated as fully human beings for a day. Greenberg and Brozek have chosen an interesting group of up-and-coming and well known authors including Tanith Lee, Eugie Foster, Ian Tregellis, Jay Lake, Seanan McGuire, Fiona Patton, Anton Strout, Jim C. Hines, Dylan Birtolo, Laura Resnick, Erik Scott DeBie, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Jean Rabe, Tim Waggoner, David D. Levine, and Jody Lynn Nye.
The opening story, "The Mainspring of His Heart, The Shackles of His Soul", by Ian Tregellis, is a retelling of Pinocchio in which Jax, a robot A.I. Coal stoker on a Dutch ship, makes plan to escape via the underground railroad in Quebec so that he can be made human and live out his life with the man he loves, a fellow sailor named Willem. As is often the case with fairy tales, Jax gets his wish after a fashion, but at a very steep price.
The most unusual incarnation comes in Seanan McGuire's delightful "Cinderella City", in which the City of San Francisco is turned into a woman by the brother-in-law of the Summer King as part of a plot to take over summer. Part of the fun with the story is that while human, San Francisco retains certain abilities, such as being able to sense what is happening anywhere in San Francisco (since she is the city after all), and pigeons and stray cats and dogs recognize her for what she is and begin following her everywhere
In Laura Resnick's amusing "Mortal Mix-Up", a vampire finds herself switched to the body of a schoolgirl who was playing with black magic. Neither of them is happy with the results.
Jody Lynn Nye's story, "The Very Next Day", is a very sweet story about Frank Church's famous "Yes, Virginia" editorial resulting in Santa Claus being incarnated for a day in New York City. The story is also an interesting meditation on the difference between childhood and adult beliefs as the quality of the recognition Santa receives differs depending on the age of those he encounters.
Not all the stories are happy or have happy endings. In Tanith Lee's bittersweet "The Dog-Catcher's Song", the relationship of a beloved family pet with his family is irrevocably altered, and not for the better.
Greenberg and Brozek have put together a nice balanced mix of happy, sad, funny and bittersweet stories. Also, unlike many themed anthologies, in Human For A Day, the theme of the title is consistently carried out in all sixteen stories. For readers who enjoyed the stories and want to read more by authors with whom they may previously have been unfamiliar, the anthology helpfully includes contributor bios that reference websites and other stories and books by the authors. Human For A Day is definitely worth reading. Highly recommended.