Words: Short Fiction Considered

Four looks at short stories this outing; two are author collections and two are anthologies. None grabbed my interest, but maybe something will capture yours!

We lead off with Deathbird, a collection of stories by one of the Grumpy Old Men of New Wave SF, a man who elevated being testy to an art form. None of which would matter a tinker’s fuck if the stories are no good. Unfortunately . . . they aren’t that good. The reviewer notes: ‘There’s no point in my giving a story-by-story run down of this collection — those I’ve mentioned, I think, give a good idea of the general tone of the book. I found little to engage with in these stories, quite probably, to my mind, because there are so few real people inhabiting them — there are automata and abstractions, but not much in the way of characters. Nor did I find anything that could be characterized as any sort of mythic resonance — they are surface readings, and little more.’

A new literary ‘punk’ movement? Gee, that makes only the umpteenth one that has been coined, so let’s have the reviewer explain what this movement is about: ‘It is easy for the casual reader to get lost in the maze of literary movements declaring themselves one flavor of “-punk” or another. Cyberpunk and splatterpunk may have kicked it off back in the ’80s, but more recent times have seen the proliferation of mannerpunk, teapunk and magicpunk, not to mention the zeppelin-riding cultural ascension of steampunk. And then there’s biopunk, championed by Paul de FIlippo in Ribofunk and dealing largely with the effects of the use of biotechnology within a speculative fiction context.’ now go read his review of Growing Dread to see why this anthology fell dreadfully flat.

Ben Loory’s Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day apparently defied the expectations of the reviewer: ‘There are books which take the reader away to a magical place and books that evoke the magic that already exists within a reader. There are books that make one think and books that help one dream, books that inform and instruct, books that change with each reading and books that remain sturdy constants over the decades. Then there are books like this one: a little bit of everything noted above and yet entirely different from any expectations those descriptions might evoke.’

Gateways, written in honour of Frederick Pohl and his Gateway novels, caused the the reviewer to wax nostalgically: ‘I’ve always thought that a science fiction anthology is perfect summer reading. Perhaps it’s because that’s how discovered the genre as an adolescent, reading anthologies of stories from Galaxy and other magazines as I whiled away the lazy summer days. Coincidentally, that’s when Frederik Pohl was editing Galaxy, between 1959 and 1969.’ Now read his review to see if these stories were as good as the Golden Age stories that are the stuff of his memories.

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