Friday, May 22, 2009

Speculative Fiction

This is a topic that has come up frequently in recent days, so when I saw Firebirds Soaring: An Anthology of Original Speculative Fiction (Sharyn November, editor) I was excited. Comprised of 19 stories that are primarily fantasy or science fiction, it introduced me to several new authors. There are two other books of this nature, and a website, Firebird Books.

The stand out stories where Nancy Springer's Welsh inspired Kingmaker, which I enjoyed because I had not read any of her fantasy. Ellen Klages Singing on a Star was disturbing because of the juxtaposition between fantasy and reality abd the ramifications of one impinging upon the other. Considering my usual ambivalence for Nancy Farmer's work, I was surprised to feel that her Ticket to Ride deserves to be a book-- I wanted to know more about the journey the main character had started and forgave her the evil librarian. The best storywas Kara Dalkey's Flatland. It was futuristic but tangentially dystopian, and conjectured what our current technology could become, and how it could shape our lives.

I was disappointed that there was so little science fiction, which is what I was seeking when I picked up the book. Most of the stories were fantasy, and there were a few, like The Dignity He's Due (which was more about mental illness and homelessness) and Something Worth Doing (historical fiction) which confused me, because I kept waiting for some speculative element to emerge. While this book was a big help for me in finding new authors, and I will certainly look at the other two books, I don't know that I will buy them for my library because it is almost impossible to get my students to check out short stories and there is already a vast collection of them gathering dust.

Also enjoyed Janet Graber's The White Witch. Set in England during the Great Plague, this slim volume concerns Gwen, a young healer whose father sets off for London and leaves Gwen to hide and hopefully avoid the plague. The townspeople are sure that she is a witch, and in the end when they are grief stricken and looking for someone to blame for all of the deaths (which could have been avoided had they listened to her father to begin with!), they try her by water-- and she manages to escape. Not sure whether I will buy this. I have reached the point in the year when I realize just how worn out many of my books are. This book would be checked out a couple of times a year, so it would last a long time. Still, do I buy this, or another two prebind copies of Carl Deuker's Runner, so I can keep mystery fans happy? Should leave this decision until fall.

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