This is the fourth edition of an anthology published almost every year since 2003 by PARSEC Ink, the publishing wing of the Pittsburgh-based PARSEC science fiction organisation. Pete Butler is the editor of this volume, which is notable for opening submissions beyond members of PARSEC.
It’s also notable in that Pete actually took the effort to email an offer of a review copy, and followed up with posting a copy with a personalised letter. It never ceases to amaze me just how little effort a lot of publishers, both large and small, appear to make in promoting their anthologies – so kudos to Pete for going that bit further to get this volume some publicity.
It’s a neat volume, in a standard chapbook type format : bigger than a normal pbk book in two dimensions, but much less in a third. (Work it out!). In the fourth dimension it also scores over mainstream anthologies, in taking less time to read than volumes of greater extent.
There are 20 stories in all, to varying degrees sticking close to the brief on the linking theme for the book, which averages out at roughly six pages per story, although there are a number of two-pagers therein. As with semi-prozines, the preponderence of short shorts, and short stories can give a slightly staccato reading experience if read in one or two sittings (as was the case with me), compared to, say, an issue of Asimovs, or a substantial anthology, which can find space for a novella.
Five of the 20 authors were known to me, although fair to say that there aren’t any Really Big Names in the volume, or even Big Names. Dario Ciriello has the first substantial story, with his ‘America is Coming’ being a literal and intriguing look at an America loosed from the tectonic plates, and meandering across the rest of the world demolishing all in its path, its population mostly blissfully unaware of the havok they are wreaking. tsk tsk Ciriello, you might get mistaken for someone with unpatriotic leanings!
Tim Pratt is one of the bigger names, and his Morris and the Machine is a neat take on time travel/quantum universe tropes, with Morris going back in time to alternate planes to try and influence the young woman who will become his wife to have faith in her inventor husband. Sadly, in his timeline, that love has long since withered.
Jeff Parish’s ‘That Ain’t a Mosey’ is a zombie Western, with a rider at the beginning warning of graphic content. Whilst his is of the gruesome variety, Jetse de Vries ‘Near Absolute Zero’ gets a warning on account of sexual content, in a story much more sfnal and more in keeping the kind of SF you get in Interzone, of which he is a key member of the editorial team. Fortunately for someone who passes a critical editorial eye over other writers’ fiction, he comes up with the goods in his story, in which a scientist who has seen what is on the other side of a black hole and has taken action to ensure that no-one else can follow, takes the secret of what he saw to the grave. To slam.
Ashley Arnold’s ‘Time’s Arrow is Not Your Enemy’ handles time travelling paradoxes neatly and entertaingly, supplemented by each story title heading at the top of each page being subtly different.
The aforementioned stories are the ones picked out for particular praise at a quick re-skim of the volume. The other stories vary from short shorts, to a couple of other substantial stories – mostly pretty fine and dandy, in a volume that gives pretty good value for $12.00 for the deadtree version, and especially good value for $4.00 for the PDF version. Hopefully with some pro-active marketing, and maximum use of the Internet to promote and sell/deliver the book, collections such as these, which would typically have been produced in much lower quality and volumes for local and regional distribution, will have a chance of getting closer to covering cost, or even making a profit!