After reading and really enjoying Daryl Gregory’s 2017 novel Spoonbenders, I was eager to read more of his work. So I picked up his 2011 collection of short stories, Unpossible and Other Stories. I had a great time reading these stories. I found them very inventive, at times quite deep and thought-provoking, at other times bonkers and hilarious. The more I read by this author, the more I really appreciate his style. Recommended for fans of something a bit different, a bit out there; stories that not only entertain but make you think.
The short stories in this first collection by Daryl Gregory run the gamut from science fiction to contemporary fantasy, with a few stories that defy easy classification. His characters may be neuroscientists, superhero sidekicks, middle-aged heroes of children’s stories, or fanatics spreading a virus-borne religion, but they are all convincingly human. Includes two never-before published short stories.
I will write brief thoughts on each story in the collection. I’m also giving them a rating out of 10.
Second Person, Present Tense (2005) 8/10 – After Therese is discharged from a psychiatric hospital, her parents begin to question who she is. This opening story is a fascinating look into identity, altered states, personality change, and family. Great character work by Gregory.
‘And a helm was on his head; a black helm, with a dragon’s head craning over the peak, and dragon’s wings flaring backward above it, and a dragon’s tail curling down the back.’
Yes, I’m very late to the tales of Elric VIII, 428th Emperor of Melniboné. His first appearance was in a novelette titled “The Dreaming City” which was published in the British magazine Science Fantasy in 1961. Since then, Moorcock’s most famous creation has featured in a wide range of stories including short stories, novels, comic books and graphic novels. The publisher Gollancz republished all of Moorcock’s Elric back catalogue over seven volumes from 2013–15. This is the first volume and serves as an introduction to the character.
The Private Life of Elder Things (2016) is a collaborative collection of new Lovecraftian fiction by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Adam Gauntlett and Keris McDonald.
“From the wastes of the sea to the shadows of our own cities, we are not alone. But what happens where the human world touches the domain of races ancient and alien? Museum curators, surveyors, police officers, archaeologists, mathematicians; from derelict buildings to country houses to the London Underground, another world is just a breath away, around the corner, watching and waiting for you to step into its power. The Private Life of Elder Things is a collection of new Lovecraftian fiction about confronting, discovering and living alongside the creatures of the Mythos.”
‘Whenever you talk, Meyer, I begin to think of a certain tone of green.’
‘Holofilms’, ‘transport units’, ergot, references to Mars, Shakespeare, and Coleridge, Brian Aldiss’s THE ERGOT SHOW is a bit of a wild ride. It reads like a 1960s art-house film script if written by someone under the influence of something strong. Is this what is often labelled New Wave science fiction? It does feel experimental and artistic. I’m not familiar with the movement so please feel free to correct me in the comments below.
The story features two film directors, Pagolini and Rhodes. One is filming the other’s film being made. They attend a party and talk about the ‘holofilm’ industry. This is interspersed with descriptions of various locations and brief scenes featuring some background characters. The effects of consuming ergot fungi plays a small part in the narrative. Continue reading →
‘If we remove him from the past, we have to make sure no one notices the big jagged hole in history we’ll leave.’
I reviewed John Sladek’s 1983 BSFA-winning novel Tik-Tok back in December 2015. I enjoyed the story, describing it as “a darkly humorous satire that casts a wry eye on such topics as art, celebrity, power, politics and slavery.” THE STEAM-DRIVEN BOY is a humourous short story that pokes fun at Asimov’s “Robot” novels. It’s another story taken from the fine 1972 collection Nova 2.
On a recent trip over to England I found these three gems in a second-hand book store. The shop was “Empire Exchange” in Manchester. It was the first time in years that I had explored the shelves of a “proper” second-hand store. I paid an unbelievable five pounds for all three books, (about $6.50).
Nova 2, Edited by Harry Harrison (1975)
The 1975 Sphere paperback. Cover art by Eddie Jones.
From the back cover: ‘Once again Harry Harrison has collected a dazzling line-up of talent for the second of his exciting NOVA collections. Established writers and new talent rub shoulders, their common ground a brilliant talent for sf.’
Includes the short stories: ZIRN LEFT UNGUARDED, THE JENGHIK PALACE IN FLAMES, JON WESTERLY DEAD by Robert Sheckley; EAST WIND, WEST WIND by Frank M. Robinson; THE SUMERIAN OATH by Philip Jose Farmer; NOW + n NOW- by Robert Silverberg; TWO ODYSSEYS INTO THE CENTER by Barry Malzberg; DARKNESS by Andre Carneiro; ON THE WHEEL by Damon Knight; MISS OMEGA RAVEN by Naomi Mitchison; THE POET IN THE HOLOGRAM IN THE MIDDLE OF PRIME TIME by Ed Bryant; THE OLD FOLKS by James E. Gunn; THE STEAM-DRIVEN BOAT by John Sladek; I TELL YOU, IT’S TRUE by Poul Anderson; AND I HAVE COME UPON THIS PLACE BY LOST WAYS by James Tiptree Jr.; THE ERGOT SHOW by Brian Aldiss Continue reading →
The Best SF&F Volume Twelve contains 29 short stories of genre fiction selected by Jonathan Strahan. I was so impressed with last year’s Volume Eleven that I didn’t hesitate to buy this new Volume Twelve when it was released in March 2018. It is another high-quality collection in which every story deserves to be read. Authors include Charlie Jane Anders, Samuel R. Delany, Greg Egan, Dave Hutchinson, Caitlin R Kiernan, Yoon Ha Lee, Max Gladstone, Alastair Reynolds, and many more.
In his introduction, Strahan offers some of his highlights of the year including the resurgence of “the novella,” which suggests that readers are keen to read more short fiction. Strahan recommends Tor.com for the regular “free” short stories it provides. He also comments on the continuing quality of such monthly publications as Lightspeed, Asimov’s, Interzone, Uncanny, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and more. Continue reading →
In his introduction to Breathmoss and Other Exhalations, Ian R. MacLeod offers his definition of the stories he desires to tell:
“stories that make us think, stories which surprise us not because they’re showing us something new, but because they’re revealing through a lie’s tilted mirror something we suddenly realize with that lovely rush of recognition we’ve known all along.”
“One night he woke and it was spread around the moonlit room like oil dribbled on water; its bare organs leaned in a clump near the door, swaying very gently.” –The Night Lily(p.130)
Margo Lanagan is an Australian writer of short stories and Young Adult fiction. Her 2004 book of short stories, Black Juice, won the World Fantasy Award for Best Collection in 2005. White Time is Lanagan’s first short story collection, and was published in Australia in 2000 and America in 2006. It contains ten short stories of speculative fiction.
It was Neil Gaiman’s glowing recommendation of Lanagan’s Black Juice which first brought the author to my attention. Black Juice’s opening story, “Singing my Sister Down”, is a mesmerizing piece of short fiction which left a deep impression on me when I first read it. So, I was looking forward to reading this, her first collection, and comparing the two books. (Which means a re-read of Black Juice is in order!) Continue reading →
“Indeed We created man from dried clay of black smooth mud. And We created the Jinn before that from the smokeless flame of fire”
Up until quite recently, I was only familiar with the word “genie” as a descriptor for supernatural beings that have a reputation for living in old lamps and granting wishes. The stories in this collection use either “djinn”, “jinn” or “genie” to represent these entities that are very different from the Robin Williams-voiced, cute, animated character seen in Disney’s Aladdin. So, what are these mysterious, misrepresented creatures? Here is what the website “islamreligion.com” says about them:
“The Jinn are beings created with free will, living on earth in a world parallel to mankind. The Arabic word Jinn is from the verb ‘Janna’ which means to hide or conceal. Thus, they are physically invisible from man as their description suggests.” (Source: islamreligion.com. Link here.)
In The Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories, editors Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin have compiled a wonderfully varied collection of 22 tales of “Djinn” from authors including Nnedi Okorafor, Sami Shah, Monica Byrne, Claire North, Kamila Shamsie, Kirsty Logan, K.J Parker, Saad Hossein, James Smythe and Neil Gaiman. It was nice to find a mixture of writers I knew as well as ones who were new to me; one of the great things about short story collections.
And what a collection this is. I haven’t enjoyed a short story collection as much as this in a long time. This is a wonderful book and a book full of wonders. Every tale is well told. It’s a cornucopia of enchanting tales that sheds light on the human condition as well as the supernatural Djinn. It was difficult to select a favorite so I’ll write a couple of lines about the stories that really stood out for me. Continue reading →