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Dwarf Varieties

Mary Soon Lee was born and raised in London, but now lives in Pittsburgh. Her short stories have appeared in Analog, F&SF, Interzone, Lightspeed, and several Year's Best anthologies. She has won the Elgin Award and the Rhysling Award for her poetry, and, in August, had 119 haiku in Science, one for each element of the periodic table. She has an antiquated website at marysoonlee.com.
Mountain dwarf.
Hardy, stout, subterranean stock. Male specimens swarthy, bearded; females elusive or hard to distinguish from the males. Famed for axe-wielding miners and warrior-smiths. Disposition: stalwart, stubborn, steadfast. Frequently hoard treasure. Note: the dwarven ruling class is drawn exclusively from mountain dwarves.
Garden dwarf.
Widespread ornamental subspecies. The smallest dwarf breed, rarely more than 18 inches in height. Bearded, ruddy-cheeked, typically adorned with bright red hats. Disposition: cheery, territorial.
Gardener dwarf.
Endangered. Range limited to the Borneo montane rainforests. Slender in comparison to other subspecies. Attired in subdued greens and browns. Whereas mountain dwarves amass gold and gems, gardener dwarves prize all manner of plants. There are apocryphal accounts of diminutive dwarves defending orchids against orangutans. Disparagingly referred to as loam-lovers by mountain dwarves.
Elf-friend dwarf.
Conjectured, possibly extinct. No extant specimens found in last three surveys.
Maidenhair dwarf.
Subspecies with two known varieties: golden-haired and ginger-haired. Both varieties are distinguished by pallid skin. Females are fierce, yet sentimental. The males are reputed to be irresistibly alluring, but since they are kept in strict seclusion by the females, such claims cannot be substantiated.
Common red dwarf.
Abundant and widespread. Attired in russet, red, or orange; starry-eyed. Long-lived even by dwarf standards. Disposition: cool, not very bright, nocturnal.
Lesser white dwarf.
Range limited to arctic and subarctic regions. White-haired, white-bearded. Disposition: recalcitrant and extremely dense.
Mead dwarf.
Protected. Hirsute, squat, brown of skin and hair. Mead dwarves were almost wiped out by mountain dwarves in the Middle Ages. Despite their protected status, they are still vulnerable to unprovoked attack by mountain dwarves, who consider them a disgrace to dwarvenhood. Disposition: timid and sensitive, unless inebriated, when they become aggressively lecherous. In the inebriated state, mead dwarves are a menace to themselves, to livestock, and to other dwarf varieties (especially maidenhair dwarves).
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, February 13th, 2018


After over a decade writing purely poetry, I recently started writing short fiction again. "Dwarf Varieties" was the fourth story I wrote after the long hiatus. The idea popped into my head and I wrote it with comparative ease, which is far from always the case. While this is primarily a whimsical fantasy piece, I'm happy I included two nods to astronomy (red dwarves and white dwarves).

- Mary Soon Lee

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