Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Clockwork Chickadee

Clarkesworld Magazine will publish Mary Robinette Kowal's story "The Clockwork Chickadee" in its June issue. I had the opportunity to read Mary's story in advance of publication, and like I have found with so much of Mary's work, it was really good.

"The Clockwork Chickadee" is, simply, a story of deceit and trickery as a little windup Chickadee plots her revenge on the little windup Sparrow.
Chickadee kept her head down when she could so as not to give him the satisfaction of her notice. It was clear to her that any bird could fly if only they were attached to a string like him. The flight, of which he was so proud, was not even an integral part of his clockwork. A wind-up engine hanging from the chandelier spun him in circles while he merely flapped his wings. Chickadee could do as much. And so she thought until she hatched an idea to show that Sparrow was not so very special.
The story is, in turn, playful and charming, well thought out and deliberate, and Kowal appears to have written her own version of an O Henry story.

It works.

It should come as no surprise that I quite enjoyed "The Clockwork Chickadee" as I am a noted fan of Mary Robinette Kowal's work, but written with a simplicity which likely masks the work that went into crafting the story and making sure that what happens at the end is, in fact, set up at the beginning "The Clockwork Chickadee" is as good as anything she has published before.


Mary Robinette Kowal said...

Oh, Joe, you have no idea what a compliment you have given me. O'Henry was my first true love among short story writers. Thank you.

Joe said...

You are very welcome.

I've read a small handful of O Henry, but that's what I thought of when reading "Chickadee".

To make this a little weird, a co-worker of mine was just telling me about an O Henry story he was reading and plans on bringing me in a collection of O Henry stories sometime next week (if he can be bothered to remember), so I think "Chickadee" is about to launch me on a binge of O Henry.