the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘anthology’ Category

CP5_front-200x300Clockwork Phoenix 5, edited by Mike Allen

Available April 5, 2016

Where I got it: received review copy from the editor

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Some people describe anthologies as a journey.  I’ve been known to compare them to techno music. But  today, I’d like you to think about anthologies as restaurants – the stories are the dishes on the menu, and the editor is the restaurateur.   Some restaurants have great atmosphere, some restaurants you only like a few dishes on their menu, or maybe there is a great Sunday brunch, or maybe it’s just a super convenient location and the food is pretty darn good.  Think about restaurants you’ve returned to again and again. There was a reason, right?

 

Tom's_Bistro_outside

 

Some restaurateurs love attention for one particular dish their restaurant specializes in, or whatever. Maybe they are the King of Deep Fried Butter, or the Home of the Original Whiskey Waffles.  Maybe they did a Taco throwdown with Bobby Flay or something.

 

And then there is that secret restaurant.  The one all the locals know about. It doesn’t look like a fancy place,  but every dish you’ve had there has been amazing. Sometimes the flavors are complex, sometimes they are simple.  You go as often as you can, with the goal of trying every dish on the unique menu before the menu changes, because the chefs and owners are always trying something new and different, because the rules don’t apply here. There are no rules, there is no pretension, there is no ego, there  are no signs proclaiming fame or autographed photos of Food Network personalities.  But, omg, the food! It is perfection on a plate! And you feel better about yourself and your life and the world every time you go there.  Clockwork Phoenix is the name of this restaurant, and Mike Allen is the restaurateur.  One sublime dish after another, and yet I still have my favorites that I keep coming back to.

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What do you get when you mix nightmares with prose poetry and then set it all to the sound of unique and unexpected typography?  You get something like The Quick Shivers anthologies from The Daily Nightmare.  and when they say “quick” shivers, they aren’t kidding. Every entry in the anthology is only and exactly 100 words long and based on a Nightmare that was submitted to their website.  And the typography? Certainly I remember typography from my college graphic design classes, but I never knew it could be used like this.  This is quite literally, graphic literature.  Jim and Janice Leach of The Daily Nightmare were kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the anthology series, the genius and challenge of unique typesetting, snob horror, and more!

Shivers 3

LRR: I absolutely adore your Quick Shivers anthologies. the writing is smart, snarky, fun and punchy, and the graphic design is just beautiful. It’s one thing to do an anthology of 100 word prose-poems, and a completely different thing to type set each entry differently and creatively. Can you tell us a little about the artistic process of putting these anthologies together?

 

Jim: Thank you for the kind words. The Quick Shivers anthologies are rather non-traditional, and not everyone appreciates the big concept. For instance, we’ve submitted both anthologies for consideration for the Bram Stoker Awards, but they don’t know what to do with them — they’re not poetry, not fiction, not graphic literature so there’s no category where they fit. And that’s kind of the point. We’re making something that’s intentionally interstitial.

 

And our other goal is to slow down the reader. I’ve had a long love affair with weird typography partially because it’s “difficult” to read. In our quickly paced society, we all rush through too much of our lives. We present the works in a way that is both expressive and helps a reader work through a piece with a bit more leisure.

 

Janice: But you’re not answering her question, dear. As far as artistic process, our books are a team sport, perhaps even a relay race. The writers pick the nightmare, give it their own interpretation, then we pass along our selections to the designer who works hard to make every piece unique. It’s fascinating to read the different takes on the same nightmare, to see how individualized and open-ended stories can be.

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Robot-UprisingRobot Uprisings edited by Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams

published April 2014

Where I got it: purchased new

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Robots are supposed to help us, right? they’re supposed to do the jobs that humans don’t want to or can’t do, right? and thanks to Asimov’s three (four!) laws, there’s nothing to worry about.

 

right?

 

wrong.  Leave it to folks like Alan Dean Foster, Seanan McGuire, Charles Yu, Cory Doctorow, Ernest Cline, Nnedi Oforakor and others to remind me that robots do exactly what we program them to do, and in many cases this is fucking terrifying.

 

I just about every story in this anthology, we played God. We created something, typically in our own image, that would be able to do things we couldn’t.  Our creations raise and teach our children, solve our computer programming issues, clean up radiation, do jobs that are too dangerous for humans to do, protect company assets, keep us healthy, etc. When we’re so sure our inventions will help us towards a better world, what could possibly go wrong?

 

But lets say we succeed. the computer programming issue has been solved, the kids are grown up, the asset has been protected, diseases have been cured, the radiation has been cleaned up. What do we do when our problem is fixed and our shiny tools are no longer needed?  Robots are designs to work. they are not designed to stop.

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the best Japanese science fictionThe Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories, edited by John L. Apostolou and Martin H. Greenberg

published in 1989

where I got it: purchased used

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Although this anthology was published in 1989, translation of included works began in the 70s when anthologists Judith Merrill, Grania Davis and Martin Greenburg, and editor and fan of Japanese literature John L Apostolou spent what would end up being nearly a decade of intense work with Japanese authors and translators of science fiction.

 

The planet is much smaller now, but try to put yourself into the mindset of an American in the 1980s.  What came to their mind when they thought “Japanese Science Fiction”? Godzilla? Astroboy? Remember, manga and anime were barely available if at all, and very few Japanese speculative fiction novels had been translated at the time.   I count myself very lucky to be reading speculative fiction in a day and age when magazines and anthologies and e-zines are printing works from all over the world, where fans clamor for translated works, where I can walk into Barnes and Noble and buy Manga that was published last month in Japan.  E-mail and Skype and Twitter make communicating across the planet as easy as shouting across the room, but that interest had to come from somewhere. I like to believe that some of it came from this anthology.  If you can find a copy of this collection (there are plenty of used copies available on Amazon), I highly recommend it.

 

I don’t care if this sounds cliche, but I love that science fiction means different things to different people.  Everything is contextual and cultural, and what you grew up with is going to shape your SFnal dreams.  I grew up in a suburban land of plenty.  Many of the authors in this anthology lived through Hiroshima. Quite the difference in experience there.  For the most part, these are not stories of first contact with aliens, they are not stories or space exploration or adventure, there is no futuristic technobabble and little gadgetry to speak of. They are intimate and low stakes, often ominous, everything from laugh out loud funny to horrifically hard to read, more fantastical than SF. But still, all of them are worth the read. Check out Two Dudes in an Attic’s review as well.

 

Here are a few words on my favorites:

 

Cardboard Box by Ryo Hanmura (1974) – These self aware cardboard boxes are seeking to fulfill their destinies – to be completely filled up. Because of course, what else would be the purpose of a box? Filled with fruit, and enroute to a grocery store, the boxes on the truck discuss what might happen to them after their fruit is removed. Will they be reused? Will they be thrown into the incinerator? broken down and stomped on and put in the trash? Their yearning to be completely filled up is hilariously sexual, and one box does in fact, become completely filled by taking an unexpected and possibly deadly path. Good luck getting through this story without laughing your head off and not blushing next time you put stuff in a box.

 

The Road To The Sea, by Takashi Ishikawa (1981) – A little boy runs away from home, insistent on seeing the sea. He’s seen pictures of it in books, how far away could it possibly be?  People he meets on his way try to convince him to go back home, but the child is determined to see the sea. This story put me a bit in mind of Cecil Castellucci’s We Have Always Lived on Mars.

 

The Savage Mouth, by Sakyo Komatsu (1979) – At first, I thought the protagonist was planning to, or threatening to commit suicide. And then we get a look at the room in which he will undertake his procedure, which includes an automated operating table, a stack of prosthetics, and a restaurant quality kitchen, complete with seasonings and cast iron frying pans.  This is one helluva gag reflex triggering horror story, with extra pressure coming because you can’t believe anyone would actually *do* this to themselves.  First, he amputates his leg, and attaches a prosthetic.  Think about that fully equiped kitchen, and I’ll bet you can guess what happens next.  One of his many justifications is that he’s not using the planet’s diminishing resources, he not eating an animal, he’s not harming other animals to feed himself.  Like some people get addicted to piercings or getting tattoos, our protagonist gets addicted, in a way, to his slow self immolation.  But he is sustaining himself with calories, and planning the next steps in the most scientific way possible. So, is it suicide or science? No one has ever done what he’s doing, no one has ever survived it. he could be the first person to taste his own eyeball, his own lung tissue, his own brain tissue!  By the time the cops find the lab, there isn’t anything left of him to put to questioning, and the cops assume some kind of sick murderer tortured his victim.  Like I said, gag reflex triggering horror story.

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Vampires Don’t Sparkle!  edited by Michael West

published in 2013

where I got it: purchased new

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Vampire fiction has been mostly a turn-off for me lately. I don’t want to read about vegetarian vampires, vampires who don’t want to hurt humans, vampires who are lonely and just waiting for the right mortal who could make this all worth it. I don’t want my vampires to be family friendly. Sexy vampires are always fun, and well, sexy, but I’d rather have the read thing. Give me some violent amoral bloodsuckers any day, give me some Jasper Kent, some Kim Newman, some gold old traditional Bram Stoker any day!  Good thing Vampires Don’t Sparkle! came along. Fifteen authors who agree with me. Fifteen stories where the vampire is the bad guy, the dangerous one, the thing to run away from. As editor Michael West says in his introduction, pop culture (and one particular author who changed the face of vampire fiction) stole vampires from us, and made them into something they’re not. It’s time for us to take them back! These stories aren’t all horror, not in the slightest. Some of them are laugh out loud funny, some of them cover the lonely and dangerous reality of what hunting humans entails,   there is a truly disturbing one about how one man learns how to destroy a vampire. They are all a throwback to what so many of us have been missing. Sick of sparkly vampires? This anthology is for you.

If you’re on the fence about if you want your vampires gentle and sparkly or violent and uncaring, be aware that there is straight up making fun of Twilight. No bones about it, some of these authors are pretty pissed at what Vampire fiction has become.

Each story opens with a short bio of the author, and who (or what) the author’s favorite type of vampires are, with shout-outs going to I am Legend, Salem’s Lot, The Historian, Kim Newman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, even Sesame Street’s The Count among many others. I appreciated that editor West solicited stories from authors who have loved this type of fiction their entire life.

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The Apex Book of World SF, edited by Lavie Tidhar

published in 2009

where I got it: purchased new

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I recently picked up both of the Apex Books of World SF.  I’ve had my eye on these anthologies for quite a while now.  Up till now, I’ve mostly read books by Americans, Canadians, UK’ers, and a few Australians. It’s time to widen my horizons, don’t you think?

The Apex Book of World SF offers a variety of types of stories, from the surreal to the relatively mundane, and some, such as Elegy and Compartments felt like they were completely outside of time, as if taking place in a world and a language that only have present tense. In many stories, names were left out, characters were just “the daughter”, or “the conductor”, or “the girl”. In English, we seem to have an obsession with naming things, we enjoy naming things, we enjoy giving each character a name that fits that person, we write entire stories that focus around naming.  In this collection enjoyed running into so many stores where the priority for what to name was so different. I imagine there was some context there that I missed, something of an implied title or connotation in “the girl”, or “the father”, something our English spellings aren’t quite equipped for.  But that’s all okay.

As with any anthology, there were a few entries that didn’t do much for me, but for the most part, the Apex Book of World SF was a winner.  I found myself rereading many of the stories, especially Compartments and Transcendence Express.  Somtow’s The Bird Catcher was a special treat, made only more terrifying after I did some further research.

Were there  cultural references that I missed in these stories? To be sure. Foods, or holidays, or colors of clothing, or being barefoot, or being a certain religion, or urban legends, these are all things that would register with anyone who grew up on that culture, but didn’t register with me because I didn’t grow up with those things.  Again, all completely okay, and didn’t stop me from enjoying the heck out of this anthology and going back to reread many of the entries.

And the best part is I’ve got the Apex Book of World SF 2 sitting at home waiting for me.  If you are looking for more diversity in what you read, this is an excellent anthology to start with.

Here are just some of my favorites out of the Apex Book of World SF:

The Bird Catcher, by S. P. Somtow – I’ve been looking forward to reading more from Somtow since reading Starship and Haiku. The Bird Catcher was written in 2002 and won the World Fantasy Award for best novella.

When Nicholas was a child, he befriended a serial killer. Caucasian, but still a refugee, Nicholas and his mother were among thousands who fled  China when the Japanese occupied Nanjing. On the boat to Thailand, Nicholas meets Si Ui, a strange, scared man, who speaks of insatiable hunger as he catches birds to eat raw. They each see something they recognize in the other.  Nicholas is young enough that he may recover, but Si Ui is scarred for life. Nicholas’s mother finds work in a clinic in a small village, and Si Ui shows up there too, as a farmhand.  On the surface, this is just a story about a little boy who finds a monster, and sees how easy it would be, how easy it *could* be to become a monster. When children go missing in the village, and are later found dead, Nicholas can stay silent, or he can brag about knowing the monster.

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Warning: massive photo dump ahead.

Continuing my post from yesterday about the awesomeness of ConText26, on Saturday afternoon we went to a few more panels:

What Editors Want, with Faith Van Horne, John Joseph Adams, Jason Sizemore, and Scott Sandridge. This was one of my favorite panels.  They talked about common errors seen in manuscripts  (such as not following submission guidelines, the story submitted doesn’t match the style of genre of the publication,  bad grammar), the author-editor relationship, and how the anthology editor decides what order the stories should in be. Frustration with not being able to take great stories came up more than once, where an editor was putting together a themed anthology and had to reject an excellent story simply because it had nothing to do with the theme.

Faith, John Joseph Adams, Jason Sizemore and Sandridge

Faith Van Horne, John Joseph Adams, Jason Sizemore and Scott Sandridge

A big part of the discussion was What Do Editors Really Want?

– how did you put a different spin on the idea?

– how is your approach different to everyone else who has used the same device?

– originality is better than polish

– how is your character different? what do they care about? Why should the reader be interested in them?

– humor is a plus. Just make sure you are laughing because the author wrote it as a humor piece!

During the Q&A time I asked how they each got into editing, and what steps someone who is interested in that aspect of the business should take.  The advice was to volunteer as a slush reader to get a taste for it.

next, was:

Non-Human Characters, with Elizabeth Bear, Matthew Cook, Linda Robertson, Dave Creek, T. Lee Harris, and Scott Sandridge.  Another excellent panel! Be the character an animal, alien, shapeshifter or humanoid who isn’t human, they can’t just be the classic Star Trek “dude in a rubber suit”, or the person with nose ridges and lots of ear piercings. The authors talked about their techniques for writing non-human characters, which included tossing a lot of questions out to the audience. What sensory experiences does your character have (maybe they depend on smell?)? just because we are  base-10 doesn’t mean other creatures will be, especially if they don’t have 10 fingers.  What about symbiotic relationships? If you are on an alien planet, the environment of that planet will affect everything about the creatures who live there, everything from their physiology to their economy to their moral culture.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.