Walton's sf often deals with the field's classics. Her Hugo-winning fictionalized memoir Among Others is a tour through the genre's roots, and its nonfiction companion, the reviews collected in What Makes This Book So Great, are a brilliant look at the way that the pulp/mass-market era of sf influenced Walton and a generation.
There's something classical in Walton's approach to fiction. These stories, often very short, are the kind of thing you can imagine Judith Merril publishing in an issue of Galaxy or If, a forgotten Frederic Brown or Theodore Sturgeon story that makes you laugh long and hard when you find it in an anthology you pluck from a sun-bleached shelf in a rented beach-cottage on a rainy day.
Her stories have the great, O Henry-ish sting-in-the-tail structure of the kinds of shorts I grew up on, leavened with enormous wit and the kind of profound compassion that made My Real Children such a tear-jerker that I literally couldn't have it on the desk while I reviewed it, because I'd have dissolved into sobs again.
The longest piece in the story is a work of pure absurdism, a script for a playlet based on the Irish myth of the sons of Tuireann, and it is so convulsively funny that I was filled with instant regret when I learned it had been performed at a sf convention that I was invited to, but couldn't attend.
The last pages of the volume are filled with a smattering of Walton's best-loved poems, which were her entry into the field, published on Usenet and Livejournal in the dim origin-days of the science fictional internet. These are every bit as crisp as they were they day they were written.
Starlings [Jo Walton/Tachyon]
(Image: David Dyer-Bennet, CC-BY)