Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pushing more limits

kw: book reviews, fantasy, science fiction, anthologies, continued review

As I thought overnight about the stories I reviewed yesterday, I realized that "Special Economics" is indeed science fiction. The factory where the oppressed young women work is making bio-batteries and bio-computers, and a quirk in one of the batteries is a fulcrum of the plot. Having read the rest of The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy, I find one other that I would so label, and a couple that are close, but to take things in order:
  • The Goosle by Margo Lanagan –It didn't take more than a page or two to realize this is a story about buggery; not just using it as a main element, but about it. I opted out.
  • Shira by Lavie Tidbar –To start with, imagine Jerusalem is gone, just flat wiped out. Then how will the Mideast evolve?
  • The Passion of Azazel by Barry N. Malzberg –Here the "goat for Azazel", that is, the scape-goat, has a chance to speak for himself. Kabbala is a fruitful source of mystical elements in Jewish-inspired fiction, and here even more so.
  • The Lagerstätte by Laird Barron –The word means "resting place". Grief that leads to obsession is nothing new, and lying to one's analyst is probably universal, but is this woman suicidal, or simply murderous?
  • Gladiolus Exposed by Anna Tambour –A very different kind of obsession. Does the author really expect the reader to become sympathetic to this nut? (And would it give too much away to call him a bonehead?!)
  • Daltharee by Jeffrey Ford –Science fiction emerging into fantasy; the shrinking ray posited here obviously violates all quantum principles, particularly by shrinking atoms in proportion. Energy has to go up when size goes down.
  • Jimmy by Pat Cadigan – Stripped of story: a young boy is being "made to know" things by some alien influence, but it makes him automatically hated by almost everyone. Is How we know as important as What we know?
  • Prisoners of the Action by Paul McAuley and Kim Newman – Solid science fiction, and the second-best story in the book. A seeming alien attack has led to capture of the "aliens", if the things captured really are the actual aliens…
I could naively say that the preponderance of more fantastical fiction indicates that it makes fewer demands upon an author, but I reckon that really isn't so, just different demands. The greater reason seems to be societal: fantasy is more popular now than ever, and the market for stories with a strong technological element is shrinking. Anthologies such as this one must reflect what the journal editors are buying, after all.

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