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Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, by Warren Lapine Book Review | SFReader.com
Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, by Warren Lapine Genre: Fantasy Anthology Publisher: Wilder Publications Published: 1984 Review Posted: 10/12/2013 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated
Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, by Warren Lapine
Book Review by Edward F. McKeown
Have you read this book?
Fantastic Stories of the Imagination is Warren Lapine's new anthology, taking
an SF magazine sensibility into the anthology market. He brings 14 very diverse
stories by a wide range of authors from great masters such as Mike Resnick and
Harlan Elision to more recent discoveries (at least to me). Fans of the Liaden
universe will be glad to see a Sharon Lee and Steve Miller story.
The tales go from pure science fiction through to urban fantasy. There is no
theme to the anthology though many of the stories deal with the intersection
between man and machine and the question of where one leaves off. Most of the
stories deal with ethical and moral issues characters face, about when to
intervene in someone else's life or situation. Love is encountered, succeeds,
disappoints, fails and rises from the ashes as we learn to cope, to hold and to
These stories do not disappoint. In reviewing the ones below I applied my
peculiar standard which is that it matters little whether I personally like a
story but rather whether I felt the author was successful at telling their
story. Likes vary too much. Still I am pleased to report there were no stories
that I didn't like, this was a strong field worthy of Churchill Downs and no
nags started this race. Some appealed to me more and a very few a bit less but
those were due to personal preferences, as Warren observed he does not
generally care for Steampunk or religious stories yet both are present in here.
So one's preferences should always be balanced with IS THIS GOOD? WAS IT
SUCCESSFUL? As an editor myself I have published stories that I did not like,
where the author took a character to a place I personally did not believe the
character would go. But I accepted it because it was valid, it was well-written
and it belonged. As an editor you want to avoid making all the work sound like
yours or your favorite authors. You need to keep room for pieces that defy your
expectations. My guess is Warren felt the same.
Full disclosure: I have met Mike Resnick socially and been published by Sharon
Lee and Steve Miller.
The first story "Interface Patterns" by Kelly McCullough introduces some
interesting technology in a future so dominated by computer assistance in daily
living as to make the most wired of the latest generation look like Luddites.
This is a crime story with an interestingly dark protagonist who may identify a
little too much with the other side. Believe me, you will feel the impact of
the end of this piece. Usually I am not a fan of virtual reality stories but
this one is anchored in blood and pain and will not be confused with a
bloodless "holodeck" adventure. VR bites hard in this piece.
Harlan Ellison's "A Tiny Man" simply has to be read and experienced and I am
not quite up to the task of explaining it to you. Madness and genius with two
different endings, you will think of this one for a long while after. There is
biting satire; an unusual first person narrator addressing the reader, and the
perspective is at once intimate and distant. Is it a metaphor? A satire? A tale
of Frankenstein in miniature, or have I followed Alice too far down the rabbit
hole? All I can tell you it is damn good. Read it and wish you could write
this. I did.
"Steaming Into Wonderland" by Douglas Cohen Well I swear that when I mentioned
Alice in the proceeding note I had no idea I would literally be going down the
rabbit hole with her in Douglas Cohen's work. I must confess to never having
read Alice in Wonderland and now I think that if I do I will find it dull by
comparison with this romp through a most unusual wonderland. The Matrix meets
Dungeons and Dragons and no one is quite what they seem. The real world
references to Suicide Kings are sly reminders that this is not Lewis Carroll
yet the voice is kept so well in tune that you may forget. Again, I have not
read Carroll but Alice permeates that culture and no one now escapes Disney and
the Mouse that Roars so it is certainly what I think of as Alice and probably
truer to the original than many of the later movies.
"The Digital Eidolon That Fits In Your Pocket" is Trent Zelazney's entry. This
is the first piece in third person and makes a nice break from the first person
perspectives of the other stories. It is a daringly written piece about the
converse of all those wedding videos you see these days documenting the couple's
courtship. It features an encounter with a very peculiar salesman, a staple of
encounters on the edge of the Twilight Zone. This story generates a real fear
that, like the movie Gattaca, it presages a technology that is nearly upon us
and that someday in the not too distant future, a salesman might offer you this
item, and change the way in which we deal with the final arbiter of our
existence, Death. Don't look up Eidolon until after you read the story. The
tone changes from ironic to chilling, and we are left with a question of who or
what the Salesman is and how true his claims are. I would have liked a little
more on that Salesman but if your worry is that you wanted to stay in a story
after it ended that's a good thing.
Riding the Bus by Tom Piccirilli is written with a fine New York sensibility
that comes with an accent in your head (full disclosure I am from New York) and
that sense of coping with impossibility that is a daily feature of life in New
York. I actually laughed out with joy and enthusiasm with this noir-toned tale.
I'd like to buy Tom a beer at some point. This was the first piece of the
anthology that didn't deal with us and technology at sword's points. It was
more about the classics of human life, hope and death. A well-written piece and
whatever you think you see coming will not detract from it when it arrives.
"Sluggo" by Mike Resnick. If I laughed aloud in Ton Piccirilli's story, as I
write this, tears sting my eyes at Mike Resnick's "Sluggo" a tale of loneliness
and isolation with hope sprinkled on it. Yet the hope is not the one you expect
and the bargain made is not the common one. A true friendship is the most
valuable of commodities and love in whatever form it arrives is never to be
despised or traded away. Dammit, I need a moment here...
The Swap by Barry Longyear. I needed an emotional break after Sluggo and found
it in The Swop, this was a simply fun, though not simply written, tale of
revenge and closure and the consequences of the lies we tell ourselves. The
setting of Carlsbad Caverns made for an additional interest in this amusing
tale of characters on the road of the afterlife.
Starwisps by Edward J McFadden. This tale takes us off our Earth for the first
time into a fantasy world with an unlikely airship called the airscrew and
Prince trying to save his people. This loosely Steampunk tale put me in mind of
the works of Jack Vance in the Dying Sun series though less cynical and bitter.
In the end it is the tale of a Prince and a Commoner there is a chance of
happily ever after and they have a dog. What more could you ask for?
Custody by Jay O'Connell. Even the undead have family problems in this fast
moving take of Mom, Dad and a the teenager whose going to drive them both
crazy. This story features an immediacy and point of view that will remind you
of True Blood and Sookie.
Haircut by Shariann Lewitt, is a powerful story of a young woman making a
choice, I realized that I let out a pent up breath when she did, I was that
relieved. I think that tells you most of what you need to know about this
involving work. If you need more, well the story deals with life and death and
the issue of at what point we trade what we were given by God (or random chance
if you are an atheist) for what science can give you, when you do not HAVE to,
when you are healthy.
A Cry for Hire, by Carole McDonnell, this piece deals with the intersection of
fantasy and religion, a difficult address at the best of time. McDonnell uses a
large old house that opens on to other realities and a woman caught in the
hypocrisy of her marriage and religion as she reinterprets her life through the
boy she meets in another world. Shades of CS Lewis and Orson Scott Card flavor
And What Were Roses? by Mary A Turzillo is a love story, human and mutant and
the issue of whether love can survive the differences. In here too is an
interesting issue on revenge. It's said that an alcoholic must give up alcohol
for themselves not for the good of another, and it seems the same can be said
of revenge and hatred. You must do it for yourself or you will take to the
bottle or the bomb again.
A Box in My Pocket by Amy Sundberg. Another sweet tale of longing and loss that
will make your eyes sting if you have ever lost anyone. Sometimes the things we
try to hang onto hardest are forced through our fingers. Maybe the thing we
want to hang onto is not good for us to keep. It's a real world issue we all
face and will make you think.
Starblaze by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. The anthology wraps up with the only
other story to be set entirely off our world, an SF piece of the Liaden
universe of Lee and Miller, known for having its own extensive following. Here
we find out that the experience of a taxi driver is a universal constant. You
never know what can happen when you pick up a fare.
Because this story cannot explain the Liaden universe in its complexity, you
may want to look up some information on it. Liaden are humans but culturally
they are very Japanese or for readers of CJ Cherryh rather like the huge Atevi
of her Foreigner universe. This is a complicated read so pay attention there is
a whole universe in here and it is not casually followed. Honor and integrity
battle consequences in this tale of a driver who goes to the nth degree for her
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