Esther Friesner, editor,
Did You Say Chicks?!
(Baen, 1998)

Okay. The cover, first. The chain mail tank top has become a crop top (nice scalloped trim) and the loincloth doesn't look big enough to make a decent pencil case, let alone protect the warrior woman's, um, assets. She's still wearing her greaves, although now she has comfy-looking leather leggings under them. (The editor has yet to identify the armor bits on her forearms or the pagoda-like thingies on her shoulders. All he did was confirm something I pretty much knew. I guess you could say I'm a-greaved.) [Editor's note: The editor is busy with the important, day-to-day crises involved in running a major online publication and doesn't have time to do his writers' research for them.]

Did You Say Chicks?! is the sequel to Chicks in Chainmail and its nineteen stories (plus a delightful Ode to Xena on the dedication page) carries on in the proud tradition of the first volume. Some authors return and others are new, but they share in common inventive, original and funny stories.

Elizabeth Moon returns with "No Pain, No Gain," another tale of the Ladies Aid & Armor Society, and, well, rearranged body parts. An American tall tale meets a Russian legend as Pecos Bill's bride tangles with Baba Yaga in "Slue-Foot Sue and the Witch in the Woods" by Laura Frankos. A family curse, a haunted hauberk and a ghost with a green thumb figure in Sarah Zettel's "A Young Swordswoman's Garden Primer," and Jody Lynn Nye brings together two old foes who have more in common than they realize in "The Old Fire."

The star of a hit TV series about a warrior woman finds that she's a hit in Faerie as well in Mark Bourne's clever "Like No Business I Know." Baba Yaga makes a more positive appearance in "A Bone to Pick" by Marina Frans and Keith R.A. DeCandido. Elizabeth Ann Scarborough has a young soldier record "The Attack of the Avenging Virgins" in a series of letters home to his Mum, and their revenge is sweet indeed. In the gentle "Oh Sweet Goodnight" by Christina Briley and Walter Vance Awsten, a guardswoman contemplates her life choices and finds them good. Doranna Durgin demonstrates that not all warrior women are human in the intriguing "A Bitch in Time," while Laura Anne Gilman warns of the dangers lurking in the department store in "Don't You Want to Be Beautiful?"

"A Night With the Girls" is a lively adventure story with a hint of humor, but you may not want to read it while eating. Steve Pizik's "A Quiet Knight's Reading" is a short but very sweet tale of a most unusual and appealing dragon, and "Armor Propre" by Jan Stirling and S.M. Stirling points out the hazards of wizards who love too much. Esther Friesner has a delicious new take on Beowulf in "A Big Hand for the Little Lady."

K.D. Wentworth tells us what it's like to be a "Blade-Runner" while Lawrence Watt-Evans offers a tale about the importance of "Keeping Up Appearances." Harry Turtledove's "La Diffˇrence" is a science fiction story featuring a futuristic woman warrior -- think "spacesuit" for "chainmail." "Tales From the Slushpile" by Margaret Ball brings back universe-commuting sword-for-hire Riva Konneva facing perhaps one of her biggest challenges yet -- a bad author. Finally, Adam-Troy Castro closes the anthology with a grace: the simple, brief and evocative piece "Yes! We Did Say Chicks!"

This is not a one-note anthology. That each story is unique speaks to the talent of each of the authors, and you can find out more about them in a biographical section at the end. If you like Chicks in Chainmail, you're going to love Did you Say Chicks?!.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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