Nebula Shorts: Fran Wilde – A Catalog of Storms

A coastal town is besieged by storms and chosen people from the town use the names of storms to gain power over them. But what happens when people become the weather or the weather seeks out people?

‘Long before Lillit and Varyl and I were born, the Mayor’s son shouted to the rain to stop before one of her speeches. And it did. Mumma’s aunt at the edge of town yelled back lightning once.
The weather struck back: a whole family became a thick grey mist that filled their house and didn’t disperse.
Then Mumma’s aunt and the Mayor’s son shouted weather names when storms approached. At first it was frightening, and people stayed away. Then the Mayor realized how useful, how fortunate. Put them up at the Cliffwatch, to keep them safe.
Then the news crier, she went out one day and saw snow on her hand—a single, perfect flake. The day was warm, the sky clear, trees were budding and ready to make more trees and she lifted the snowflake to her lips and whirled away.
The town didn’t know what to think. We’d been studying the weather that became smarter than us. We’d gotten the weather in us too, maybe.’

Sila and her sisters make their lives amid the personal battle between the storms that attack the town and the people who become weathermen to hold off the attacks. In the process of becoming weathermen, they cease to be entirely people any more.

My desire for puns makes it too hard not to call the story ‘atmospheric’ and the story captures a melancholic sense of the town with its trade in storm catalogs captured on unusual articles (brass hinges, stitches in the hems of curtains) and its loss of people either as victims to predatory storms or as they turn into weathermen.

However, as a whole, the pieces just really didn’t fall into place for me. I’ve read the story several times and I usually find that these style of stories (where the setting and circumstance take the whole story to really grasp) often click into place on the second reading. Unfortunately, this one really didn’t do that for me. It is full of ideas & images and those stick with you but I didn’t get a sense of place or setting or really character but rather fragments not unlike a dream you can’t quite remember.

This is not a story that I find mysterious why other people like it. The prose is well executed and that dream-like quality and the air of sadness has a beauty to it. However, it just didn’t hang together for me and even writing this review I have to keep revisiting because the piece doesn’t stick in my head.


4 responses to “Nebula Shorts: Fran Wilde – A Catalog of Storms”

  1. I really didn’t click with the story either, but I didn’t have the same problem engaging with it that you seem to have had.
    I could follow the thread about becoming what you fight; I just thought the framing was too magical and not enough realism.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, I found the story rather nebulous myself. 😉

    I really enjoyed Fran Wilde’s Riverland which is a finalist for the Andre Norton. I nominated it for the Lodestar.

    Liked by 1 person

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