Edited by Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray, this anthology of fantasy stories has a fun concept that acts as a connective thread: all the stories take place, at least partly, in a bar. The same bar. And not just any bar—the Ur-Bar, run by Gilgamesh himself, historical king of Uruk and hero of Mesopotamian mythology. The stories begin in ancient history, when Gilgamesh takes over management of the bar, and move through time. They’re all set on Earth, though the introduction admits it could be an “alternate Earth,” but due to the bar’s magical, time-traveling nature, the anthology becomes a trip through the world’s civilizations and mythologies.
The Universe of Things is a difficult anthology to review, since it is populated by some very difficult writing, and I don’t mean the language is hard to understand. By this, I mean that the stories are very challenging, and not straightforward at all. Gwyneth Jones’ writing is unsettling, which can be interpreted as a sign of her skill as a writer.
Troubled young runaway Aydee escapes her abusive home and stumbles across a bookstore called Lost Pages. After a series of bizarre encounters with a variety of creatures and divine beings, Aydee is befriended by Lost Pages’ shopkeeper Lucas and his myriad pet dogs. Together with Lucas, Aydee works and grows up at Lost Pages while dealing with its peculiar customers and the strange books in stock. But far from being a peaceful haven, Lost Pages thrusts Aydee into an ancient conflict between old gods and monsters until she is forced to confront the uncomfortable reality of her own true identity. Continue reading
The Best Erotic Fantasy & Science Fiction edited by Cecilia Tan and Bethany Zaiatz is a cohesive, balanced collection of stories that definitely live up to Circlet Press’ goal to find new ways to break open the strictures and formulas of the science fiction and fantasy genres in tandem with breaking open the formulas of erotica. There is a little something for everyone as long as you keep an open mind and aren’t shy about the s-word. As you might imagine this book is definitely all about SEX. But it’s also about many other things, most especially love. Love in all its wild and varied forms, from first love, to unrequited love, to obsessive love, to downright strange love. Continue reading
At the cusp of the twentieth century, the weather, as it was portrayed in utopian fiction, was something of a nuisance, an inconsiderate boor that could, should and would be reformed. Once war, sex and greed had been dealt with, the final item on the agenda in most fictional utopian societies was the control of weather. Thus in William Dean Howell’s “A Traveler From Altruria” series (1892), the visitor boasts about the superior weather on his terraformed world; Rokheya Shekhawat Hossein’s feminist utopia “Sultana’s Dream” (1905) has the guide describe, with similar pride, how in her world, a system of pipes tapped clouds for their water, thus also taming the monsoons; and Maxim Gorky wrote essay after essay describing weather-control as utopian communism’s killer app. As William Meyer, a geographer who’s made a specialty of studying utopian weather, put it: “Utopia, to be utopia, must enjoy perfect weather…”
Tesseracts is a historic semi-annual anthology of Canadian science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Each volume is put together by a different pair of editors. Jean-Louis Trudel’s history of the series up until 1998 can be found in Tesseracts 7. Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing acquired Tesseract Books (which published Tesseracts from its fourth volume onwards) in 2003. I first encountered the series in a used bookstore in Montréal a few years ago, and learned more about it while preparing Nanopress‘ Aurora winners’ anthology in celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the award last year. I have read volumes 3 and 8 in full, and portions of volumes 4, 5, and 9. As an increasingly devoted observer of Canadian genre writing and fandom, I chose to assign this review to myself, and I hope that what I consider my thoroughness and honesty come across as such. It is worth reminding our readers that I am indebted to several members of the Edge staff, particularly Brian and Anita Hades and Janice Shoults, for their help in holding the launch party for this magazine at the World Fantasy Convention in Columbus this past fall. I have not allowed their kindness to prejudice this review, and in fact it is my affection for Canadian fandom and for Edge as a publisher that motivate me to be as truthful as possible.
Tenth Orbit and Other Faraway Places is a single-author collection by Argentine writer Gustavo Bondoni, put out by the small press Altered Dimensions and available in paperback and ebook editions. The twenty-two stories comprising this volume are primarily idea-driven science fiction. According to the author, all were originally written in English, rather than having been translated. I believe at least some of the stories were previously published, but there is neither publication history nor individual copyright date for any of them. I would have liked to trace the development of Bondoni’s writing style chronologically, but was unable to do so.
The publisher, Cheryl Morgan, has this to say about Dark Spires:
I’m not going to wax lyrical about its chances in awards, because it is not that sort of book. Dark Spires was not created to compete with the blockbuster anthologies produced by the likes of Ellen Datlow or Jonathan Strahan. … Rather it was created with the specific intent of showcasing writers from a particular part of the UK. If you want an analogy, it is rather like doing a book using only writers from the Sacramento area and the rest of California north of the Bay Area (complete with a rather rural focus).
As a showcase of Wessex-based authors, how does Dark Spires rate? Continue reading
Apexology: Horror is a digital only anthology of dark fiction from Apex Books. The anthology’s editor, Jason Sizemore, states in the introduction that the anthology’s goal is to “promote the authors on the Apex roster in a cost efficient manner.” There is a mixture of reprint and original stories. As with all anthologies, the stories range in quality. While there are some strong stories in the anthology, many others fail to add anything new to what are overused premises.
Sword and Sorceress, XXV, edited by Elisabeth Waters, takes the reader on a waltz through divergent worlds and heroines. Add a dash of romance and derring-do, not to mention a generous portion of sorcery, and we’re presented with an all-encompassing panorama of awesomeness. Continue reading