I love anthologies – at least the good ones. If done well, an anthology is like a box of chocolates filled with a variety of delectable confections. Granted, there are bound to be a few flavors you are not partial to, but on the whole, the selection is delightful. When not done so well, you end up with something a little more like Monty Python’s Whizzo Chocolates, getting a mouthful of Crunchy Frog or Cockroach Cluster (sorry Harry Potter fans, Rowling did not invent those). So the question is then, what are you getting with Unidentified Funny Objects 2; chocolates you can give your wife on Valentine’s Day without having to consult a divorce attorney, or are you getting something you hope is covered by your health insurance?
Like its predecessor, Unidentified Funny Objects 2 was funded as a kickstarter, and I won’t hide the fact that this made me a bit leery. I realize it’s a new world of publishing out there with self-publishing, kickstarters, and god-knows-what other newfangled methods of reaching readers, but this was my first foray into such and I feared I might be picking little frog bones out of my teeth. I am very happy to report that not only is the story quality on par with anthologies put out by the major publishing houses, but I would consider UFO2 a contender for best anthology awards. I’ll admit my opinion is probably due to my predilection for humor, but I can’t deny that this was one of the most enjoyable anthologies I’ve read in the last few years.
One thing I can’t stand is a box of chocolates that doesn’t have the identifiers on the lid informing you just what it is you are about to bite into. So with that in mind, I’ve included a quick inventory of the treats you will find in UFO2. To avoid spoilage, I will keep the story descriptions very brief.
19 stories – 17 original, 2 reprints
9 Science Fiction (SF), 5 Fantasy (F), 3 Horror (H), 2 Superhero (S)
The MSG Golem by Ken Liu (SF) – The story of a young girl of Chinese ethnicity, unaware that she is descended from Kaifeng Jews, who is recruited by God (the Jewish one) for a mission on a starship cruise line.
Service Charge by Esther Friesner (F) – A Dragon who has had her fill of bureaucracy meets the TSA.
Item Not as Described by J.W. Alden (F) – E-mail exchange between an eBay-like seller, automated Customer Service, and a supernatural entity who was not pleased with the product.
Stranger vs. the Malevolent Malignancy by Jim C. Hines (S) – Alien Superhero faces his nemesis and a talking tumor in his bowels. Quite good and surprisingly funny considering that I don’t normally like superhero stories or toilet humor.
How to Feed Your Pyrokinetic Toddler by Fran Wilde (S) – The title more or less covers it. Done in a How To guide style. Think Jack-Jack from Disney’s The Incredibles.
A Stiff Bargain by Matt Mikalatos (H) – A vampire employed by the Mayor to rid the town of other supernaturals comes up against an unspeakably powerful creature.
The Girl with the Dagon Tattoo by Josh Vogt (H) – Lovecraftian story of a college girl seeking a Dagon tatoo.
Improved Cubicle Door by M.C.A. Hogarth (F) – A manager and his staff must adventure into the cubicle of a renegade employee. D&D like adventure in an office cubicle setting.
On Safari by Mike Resnick (SF) [Reprint 2010] – Well done tribute to Robert Sheckley about two salesmen who won a company paid safari on an alien planet for being the top salesmen.
How You Ruined Everything by Konstantine Paradias (SF) – How you screwed everything up when you hit a man over the head with a shovel and stole his time machine.
Insider Information by Jody Lynn Nye (SF) – A detective with an alien implanted in her peritoneum must solve a case involving an executive who inexplicably walked off a ninety-story roof.
The Haunted Blender by K.G. Jewell (H) – A man inherits a blender and all hell breaks loose when he tries to make an appetizer for a party he is getting ready to host.
The Retgun by Tim Pratt (SF) – Secret Agents from the Sublime Union of Ethical Anarchy and Sustainable Hedonism take on fascists and meritocratic oligarchy across the multiverse. Lots of references to great SF writers like Jack Vance and Iain Banks, with a dash of gender bending. One of my favorites.
The Diplomat’s Holiday by Heather Lindsley (SF) – A Diplomat whose job requires her to constantly maintain perfect civility and model behavior gets her chance to let it all out.
Congratulations on Your Apotheosis by Michelle Ann King (F) – A woman whose self-help book and life coaching services preach self-reliance and abstinence from magic, just wants to know if her bank loan is going to be approved and decides to cheat a little.
One Thing Leads to Your Mother by Desmond Warzel (SF) – When everything goes wrong on a space ship, the weary Lieutenant on watch consults the ship’s holographic psychiatrist to help him remember his password before the cryogenically frozen crew perishes. Includes references to various SF classics, with the psychiatrist reminding me of Frederik Pohl’s Sigfrid von Shrink (Gateway). Another one of my favorites.
Class Action Orc by James Beamon (F) – An orc serving prison time acts as a public defender for another inmate. The court room cross-examinations, including a talking sword as a witness for the prosecution, are quite funny.
The Wiggy Turpin Affair by Wade Albert White (SF) – An assassin is hired to protect an old school acquaintance in a mystery involving murder by combine harvester. Successfully done in a P.G. Wodehouse style.
Hannibal’s Elephants by Robert Silverberg (SF) [Reprint 1988] – Aliens invade New York’s Central Park. The aliens provide the enormous elephant-like creatures. Humans provide the humor.
Kudos to Alex Shvartsman for recognizing the need for more SF/F/H humor outlets, and even more kudos for his turning this into an annual. Unidentified Funny Objects 2 is a top quality anthology filled with truly funny stories by some well-known and some lesser-known authors (I laughed at 17 out of 19 which is a damn good ratio). I sincerely hope this anthology series carries on for many years to come. Unidentified Funny Objects 2 gets an unqualified full Scide Splitters endorsement. Now to go out and find me a copy of the first one.