Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Sandison, 2084 (2017)

George Sandison (ed.), 2084. Unsung Stories, 2017. Pp. 344 . ISBN 978-1-907389-53-5. £9.99.

Reviewed by Małgorzata Mika

This is not an Orwell novel. This is not a premonition. A century on from the unforgettable 1984 becomes the title of George Sandison’s anthology auguring the future of our world. That future, foretold by writers before science fiction even existed, is a never-ending tale, changing its tools, characters and moods with regard to the epoch in which it was born. Proto-science fiction, science fiction, speculative fiction, anti-utopia and dystopia: the terms open up to the family of the fantastic telling the stories of the present time and its discontents. 2084 is no exception, but in this case it is no accident. In the introduction Sandison emphasizes how dissimilar the collection is in stark comparison with Orwell’s classic. In one sense, it is possible to recognize the truth in his words, as he elaborates on the how the world has changed since the completion of Animal Farm’s gloomy successor. Orwell’s post-war narratives were transfixed by the description of totalitarianism in the advent of the communist era. 2084 is supposed to relate to the family of Orwell’s novels arguably through what it is not, rather than what it is, becoming an adopted offspring of the timeless classic. Penned by fifteen writers, the stories in this anthology attempt to convey several different outcomes of (not so) futuristic realities that have pushed totalitarianism into a more subtle mode.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Tidhar, Unholy Land (2018)

Lavie Tidhar, Unholy Land. Tachyon Publications, 2018. Pp. 288. ISBN 978-161696-304-0. $15.95.

Reviewed by N.A. Jackson

The narrative of Lavie Tidhar’s novel ducks and dives like a prizefighter, leaving his reader reeling. The protagonist, Tirosh, slips between worlds: the war torn lands of the Middle East, contemporary Berlin and other imagined worlds brought to shimmering life by Tidhar’s close observation. These are the ‘could-have-been’ worlds with elements of historical fact but steeped in mythology and fraught with darker perils and hints of monstrous beings and magical apparitions.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Pflug, Down From (2018)

Ursula Pflug, Down From. Snuggly Books, 2018. Pp. 96. ISBN 978-1-943813-57-5. $10.14.

Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad

Down From is the shortish (a little over 20,000 words, I guess), dreamlike, fabulist fifth novel by Ursula Pflug, published by Snuggly Books, purveyors of bite-sized experimental and neo-decadent fiction. This is a classic unreliable narrator story, offering themes of uncertain memory, revelation, magic and reality, and featuring a viewpoint character who is uncertain about her own history, relationship with the thinly sketched secondary characters, and even which world she is in. The first half of the book unsettles with missing memories, shifting character names, stilted conversations—putting us firmly into the mindset of the discombobulated Sandrine. The second half changes both direction and pace, giving us a quite different story than we may have been expecting, albeit no less fabulist and semi-realist, and leaves as many new mysteries as we started with. After a slow start, this book rewards the faithful reader, especially if they love magic, uncertainty, fierce and unapologetic women, and stories within stories (and art within art).

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Varela, Seas of Distant Stars (2018)

Francesca G. Varela, The Seas of Distant Stars. Owl House Books, 2018. Pp. 232. ISBN 978-1-947003-92-7. $17.95.

Reviewed by Don Riggs

The Seas of Distant Stars is a variation on the alien abduction trope. The protagonist, Aria, is a “preverbal” little girl who is mobile, goes down the steps into the front yard as her parents are resting inside, and is abducted, we don’t see exactly how, and the next we know she is on another planet. One of the first things that we see happen there, on Deeyae, is an annual medical checkup, which we find out later is only for the “exchangers,” or abducted earthlings; apparently the Deeyan scientists are interested in seeing how the abductees develop physiologically—possibly to apply to their own population, as the Deeyans originally came from Earth, known there as “the Water Planet.”

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Moore, Not So Stories (2018)

David Thomas Moore (ed.), Not So Stories. Abbadon Books, 2018. Pp. 320. ISBN 978-1-7810-8612-4. $15.99.

Reviewed by Samira Nadkarni

Meant to address the legacy of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories (1902), Not So Stories (2018) is a set of 14 postcolonial short stories that problematise or confront colonial nostalgia, and what Nikesh Shukla (in his foreword) terms the “feeling that the British Empire was a benign part of the lives of those oppressed.” The collection offers narratives that centre the point of view of those marginalised under British colonialism, responding not only to the racist narratives of Kipling’s original text, but also the persisting bedrock of colonial ideology its popularity once drew, and somehow continues to draw, upon. Shukla notes that these stories are for “children and adults” (his emphasis)—and I’d argue that the majority of the collection’s stories are in fact aimed at adults rather than children.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Forrest, The Inconvenient God (2018)

Francesca Forrest, The Inconvenient God. Annorlunda Books, 2018. Pp. 70. ISBN 978-1-944354-41-1. $7.99 pb/$2.99 e.

Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad

The Inconvenient God is a novelette-length story, approximately 11-12,000 words at my estimate, published as a standalone volume in print and e-book by Annorlunda Books, specialists in bite-sized, diverse novellas and novelettes “that you can finish in an afternoon.” This story is set in a secondary world with approximately contemporary technology and infrastructure (trains, telecommunications, etc. are familiar to a modern reader) in which a multitude of gods literally and visibly walk the earth. Perhaps a flavour of fabulist realism rather than fantasy, the story features a highly bureaucratic and centralized Polity (perhaps loosely Central Asian in flavor?), who send a Decommissioner from the Ministry of Divinity to retire a minor, regional—and waning—god of mischief in the northwestern province.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Blanco, Morgan Le Fay (2017)

Jo-Anne Blanco, Morgan Le Fay: Small Things and Great (Book One of the Fata Morgana Child of the Moon Trilogy). Self-published, 2017. Pp. 288. ISBN 978-1-3658-2824-9. $10.94.

Reviewed by Regina de Búrca

This retelling of the Arthurian legend, the first in a trilogy, is told from the point of view of a five-year-old Morgan le Fay—a young girl coming to terms with her powers and the confines of the world she lives in. Traditionally seen as a villain of the story, it is refreshing to read a story from her perspective: that of a powerful female in a patriarchal world. Morgan’s childhood is interrupted as she experiences visions and shortly afterwards, is tasked with saving the souls of lost children. Compelled to travel to the secret and dangerous faerie realm, Morgan encounters magical creatures for the first time. The descriptions of these encounters are very enjoyable—the faeries are at once beautiful and creepy.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Kuppers, Studying Disability Arts and Culture (2014)

Petra Kuppers, Studying Disability Arts and Culture: An Introduction. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. Pp. 186. ISBN 978-1-137-41346-8. $37.99.

Reviewed by Kathryn Allan

Petra Kuppers is a well-known and respected figure in the disability community at large, her work encompassing (and transgressing) the realms of academia, theatre and dance, literature, and activism. It is no surprise then that her handbook, Studying Disability Arts and Culture: An Introduction, brings all of these various backgrounds together to guide those interested in learning about “the work of disabled artists and their allies” and “artful responses to living with physical, cognitive, emotional or sensory difference” (back cover). Primarily marketed as an undergraduate text, Studying Disability Arts and Culture is a useful arts-based learning tool for anyone who wants to explore “disabled bodies and minds in theatre, performance, creative writing, art and dance” (back cover). As a past university educator and current independent scholar who sometimes dabbles in creative writing, I found Kuppers’ text admirably accessible and comprehensive—for someone new to disability studies in general or to disability-centred art practices specifically, this handbook is a useful resource.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Willett, Paths to the Stars (2018)

Edward Willett, Paths to the Stars. Self-published, 2018. Pp. 310. ISBN 978-1-9993827-0-4. US$15.95/CAN$19.95.

Reviewed by Lisa Timpf

An ex-actor who has his own reasons for no longer wanting to be involved in theatre is coerced into directing a production of The Sound of Music aboard a passenger ship. Two translators overcome their mutual feelings of revulsion to work together for the greater good. Odd vegetables cause an explosive situation in a small Saskatchewan community. These are just a few of plot lines featured in Paths to the Stars, a short story collection by Edward Willett. Author of over 60 books, ranging from science fiction and fantasy to non-fiction, and better known as a novelist than a short story writer, Willett has nevertheless written shorter pieces at various points along the way. Paths to the Stars gathers together 22 of Willett’s short stories, roughly a quarter of which are previously unpublished. The book was issued by Shadowpaw Press, an independent publisher established by Willett.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Kuppers, Pearl Stitch (2016)

Petra Kuppers, Pearl Stitch. Spuyten Duyvil, 2016. Pp. 102. ISBN 978-1-944682-06-4. $15.00.

Reviewed by Kathryn Allan

I first read Petra Kuppers’ poetry collection, Pearl Stitch, on a plane while en route to a conference on the fantastic arts. I don’t normally reach for poetry as my go-to travel reading but given my previous encounters with Kuppers’ writing—buying her short story “Playa Song” for Accessing the Future and thoroughly enjoying her short story collection, Ice Bar—I felt that reading something a bit out of the ordinary, as her story-telling always is, would fit the bill. I was not disappointed.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Warren, Museum of Second Chances (2018)

A.E. Warren, The Museum of Second Chances. Locutions Press, 2018. Pp. 319. ISBN 978-1-9999199-0-0. $11.99 pb/$3.99 e.

Reviewed by Lisa Timpf

Imagine visiting a museum that houses woolly mammoths and sabre-tooth tigers, giant sloths and Neanderthal Man—not just as displays, but as living, breathing entities. You may not be able to go there physically—at least, not yet—but A.E. Warren’s futuristic novel The Museum of Second Chances will transport you there in the world of imagination. The time setting for The Museum of Second Chances is set isn’t stated explicitly. What we do know is that it’s almost 200 years after the extinction of the chameleon. Since just over a third of our world’s chameleon species are endangered currently, that may not be so far away as we think.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Lodi-Ribeiro (ed.), Solarpunk (2018)

Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro (ed.) & Fábio Fernandes (trans.), Solarpunk: Ecological and Fantastical Stories in a Sustainable World. World Weaver Press, 2018. Pp. 271. ISBN 978-0-9987022-9-2. $14.95.

Reviewed by Cat Coker

Solarpunk is the latest in a series of themed anthologies—previous installments include Vaporpunk (2010) and Dieselpunk (2011)—edited by Brazilian SF author Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro. First published in Portuguese in 2012, the English edition was funded through a Kickstarter in 2017, and it provides an intriguing window not only into Brazilian genre writing but into the complicated politics of sustainability. “Solarpunk” as a genre has emerged in the 2010s as one of numerous forms of climate fiction, even as climate reality continues to change and converge a number of preoccupations. It has also promised a form of optimism at odds with popular dystopia, managing to combine hopeful science with a cynicism regarding human nature itself. As Sarena Ulibarri notes in the preface, while Americans view even the idea of a world economy of renewable energy as inherently utopian, in other countries it is a matter of necessity and survival: Brazil is one of the world’s leaders in renewable energy with 76% of its energy drawn from wind, solar, and hydropower, but it is far, far from being a liberal utopia. Consequently, the stories collected here run an emotional and genre gamut that is highlighted by the accompanying art work by José Baetas.