Last week, I started a new feature that I’m calling “Indie Author Monday.” Rather than writing a review of a new book I’ve read that was published by a major publishing house, on Mondays I’ll be featuring independent authors. Previously featured on “Indie Author Monday” was Meyari McFarland, and you can read that review (as well an explanation of why this is a thing) here. This week, I’m featuring Zina Hutton.
I’ll be honest from the get-go: I’ve been reading Zina’s work for a while and she and I are good friends. I’m excited that she responded and said yes, I can review/feature her work because I genuinely adore it. She sent me a few pieces that are available on her Patreon, though if you’re not ready to pledge there yet, you can get a feel for Zina’s work on her blog (linked above) as she does occasionally post some of the older Patreon short stories there, and you can check out her published short story, “Accidental Queen of Spiders” here.
There hasn’t been a time where I’ve been left dissatisfied with Zina’s writing; even when I’ve helped her edit some of her work, I’m still struck by the definite voice and shape her writing takes.
Generally speaking, Zina writes a lot of fantasy–particularly urban fantasy, which tends to have as many (if not more) issues with women and people of color as traditional fantasy. It’s important for there to be diverse voices in this genre, and for that to be reflected within the writing that’s being produced for it, and not only does Zina’s prose speak to that need, but so do her essays regarding race and gender in media.
For the purposes of this review, I’ll talk about “Accidental Queen of Spiders.” It’s a quick piece of flash fiction that involves a girl who, spoiler, becomes the Queen of Spiders–not necessarily because she means to go out and be their queen, but because of little acts of kindness that she shows the arachnids. Short fiction–especially when it’s urban fantasy–presents a specific problem in that it can be difficult to set a place or time. In this case, the time isn’t necessarily important, but is still shown nonetheless through details in presence of a cell phone. The setting is very clearly an island.
The voice of the piece becomes clear within the first few moments of reading when we see interesting breaks in line as a way of emphasis, which I always think is a cool thing to do, but has to be done right. Hopefully that makes sense, but if not, let me clarify: If you’re going onto the next line instead of carrying on, I hope that you’re doing it because it’s doing something interesting and that when you do it, I’m able to pick up on why. The line breaks are more effective than I think a tab between the words would have been, and it’s a nice touch.
“Accidental Queen of Spiders” is one of those good, bite-sized pieces of fiction that are exactly the right length. You’re not left wondering “What happens next?” in a bad way since you’ve been provided closure, but you can still wonder if you want to. That’s difficult, and something I struggle with even in my own writing.
Even if I weren’t friends with Zina, I think I’d still probably make the recommendation to check out more of her work based on what I’ve read. You can check out her thoughts about comics and movies at her WordPress. If you like what you see, I would very much say that you should make a pledge for her work over on Patreon; it’s worth it.
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