Have you read this book?
Spira Mirabilis, by Ralph Sevush, as a collection of eight short stories running the gamut from science fiction to fantasy to horror to that genre-undefinable “weird tale”. The stories here have previously (and in some instances recently) been published, mostly in small press and semi-pro venues. Each story is followed by a brief write-up the genesis not only of the idea, but of the writing of the story itself. As a sometimes dabbler in the craft of writing, I hold the opinion that ideas are cheap and easy to come by, and that it’s the execution that makes the tale, so it was interesting to read the background of how Sevush birthed each story.
I have to confess to not being a great fan of short fiction so much anymore. With a novel, I feel as though there’s time for development, for things to “pick up” in a way that could turn what initially starts as something not all that interesting into something that is. I generally don’t feel justified on giving up on a book until I’m a third of the way through or more. I haven’t found that to be the case with most short stories.
By that I mean I can be done with the first ten pages of a book, and there’s still plenty of room for thing to change. But ten pages might encompass the entire length of a short story. That means, when it comes to short fiction, I have the attention span of a gnat. If the first page or two doesn’t grab me, I figure the chances are the rest of the story won’t either. Unfair, I know, to so quickly determine a story’s fate, but there you have it.
I’m pleased to say that I found all of the tales in Spira Mirabilis to be enjoyable, though as irrevocable the case with a collection, I enjoyed some more than others. Most of the tales are quickly and easily consumed, which I suppose is the purpose of short fiction. Yet even know, some several days after completing the book, one passage in particular has stayed with me:
You see, a brain that has the wherewithal to know itself so thoroughly, to contemplate itself so completely, to achieve such total self-awareness, is capable of great and terrible things. Knowing what it is, it can dwell on what it is not, and imagine things it might yet be. And the space between what it wishes it is and what it wishes to be is so vast that the universe cannot contain the distance.
That’s some good stuff right there, and although — for me — it was the highlight passage of the book, though rest often comes close. It’s from A Love of Mine, a robot/artificial intelligence love story.
If I can read through the table of contents and remember what the story was about, then it made an impression. There wasn’t a bad story in the bunch, and La Joie de Vivrem or Picasso & the Satyr, Madd Gilly & the Were-Bear, and Gods out of Time all still resonate.