TIME’S RUNNING OUT TO GET THE STORYBUNDLE! (Review)

Figure 1 - Canada Post Star Trek Stamps

Figure 1 – Canada Post Star Trek Stamps

If you’re a fan of Star Trek, you might want to see the new stamps Canada Post has come up with. No, you can’t use them for postage unless you live in Canada—and since they’re the so-called “permanent” type, you can’t use them even in Canada for international mail. (In case you don’t use snail mail, “permanent” stamps—for domestic postage only—are valid for one letter’s postage no matter how the rate rises. They’re used in the US; and in Britain as well, I think.) But they sure would make nifty decorations right next to your valid postage on your snail mail, wouldn’t they? And surprise, surprise—Canada Post doesn’t care where you live, they’ll sell them to you! You can buy them online (at least usually; the last few days, Canada Post seems to be having troubles with its website)—if you don’t live in Canada. Just click on the handy-dandy link above and see if it’s working. Anyway, there’s a coil stamp (100 stamps for about $45, which makes them under 45 cents Canadian each) featuring the U.S.S. (United Star Ship) Enterprise, a booklet containing all five of the commemorative stamps (Captain Kirk, Commander Spock, Klingon Commander Kor, Doctor McCoy and Engineer Montgomery Scott) from the Original Series. There is also a coil stamp of a Klingon ship as well as souvenir sheets, a lenticular souvenir, first day covers and a kind of expensive signed (by Shatner) souvenir. I’m guessing that at least one of the First Day Covers will be postmarked Vulcan, Alberta. (Yes, Virginia, there is a Vulcan, Alberta. It predates the TV show by many years, I believe, though they’ve capitalized on the name a lot.) And there are silver coins, too!

My wife, the Beautiful and Talented Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk*, also reminded me that the commemorative stamps are not exactly inclusive by today’s standards. Where is Uhura? Where is Sulu? (Hell, where’s Chekov?) Well, I could rant a bit about Canada Post’s insensitivity, but I’m sure someone on teh interwebz will beat me (or has beaten me) to it! (Oddly enough, CP’s CEO is Deepak Chopra. Does that confuse anyone else?) Anyway, get some now!

Figure 2 - StoryBundle Covers

Figure 2 – StoryBundle Covers

I first became enchanted with science fiction back about when I was five years old in the person of Dan Dare in The Eagle boys’ paper, when we lived in England. And since then, it’s been a lifelong obsession; in the years since I’ve read many books and at least ten times that many stories. Science fiction, fantasy and horror stories, as well as practically everything else. There’s something special about stories—in a short story you don’t have room to ramble (like in, say, George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire or Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series—no offense to both, which I’ve enjoyed); every word in a short story must contribute to character, place, action and theme. A good writer can bring a story to life; a really good one can make the reader care—evoke a feeling: love, hate, horror, disgust. Groff Conklin, the first and one of the best editors of science fiction anthologies says, in his Six Great Short Science Fiction Novels anthology (Dell, 1960) that “…good, mature science fiction stories have become better… but at the same time, scarcer.” That’s as true today—and I include fantasy in this—as it was in 1960. So when I get a chance to read a whole bunch of stories by some of the best writers in the field, I jump at it!

Figure 2 shows all the covers for the new StoryBundle, curated by Lisa Mason. I haven’t had time to read all the stories in all the books; after all—there are 8 books in this bundle, and each one has 7 stories and up, so that’s… carry the one… no, that’s an acknowledgement… um, let’s see: unless my math is all wibbly-wobbly, that’s one hundred and sixteen stories for fifteen or so dollars! How on earth could anyone resist this?

Here’s what Lisa Mason, curator says about this bundle: Wild Things by C. C. Finlay is in The Story Collection Storybundle, but [only] until June 2! You, the reader, name your price—whatever you feel the books are worth. You may even designate a portion to go to a charity. Finlay is the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, as well as an acclaimed fantasy author and teacher. The Bundle includes What I Didn’t See (a World Fantasy Award Winner) by Karen Joy Fowler (the New York Times bestselling author of The Jane Austen Book Club), Collected Stories by Philip K. Dick Award Finalist Lewis Shiner, Errantry by four-time World Fantasy Award-winning Elizabeth Hand, The Green Leopard Plague by two-time Nebula Award-winning Walter Jon Williams, Women Up to No Good by multi-award-winning Pat Murphy, Strange Ladies: 7 Stories by New York Times Notable Book Author Lisa Mason, Wild Things by C. C. Finlay, the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and 6 Stories by Bram Stoker Award-winning Kathe Koja. But you must act now. The Story Collection Storybundle lasts only fourteen more days, including today, until June 2, 2016 at https://storybundle.com/storycollection.

Figure 3 - Strange Ladies (Mason) cover by Tom Robinson

Figure 3 – Strange Ladies (Mason) cover by Tom Robinson

As I say, I haven’t had time since I got the StoryBundle to read all the stories—these are not “cola” stories, that one guzzles right out of the bottle; these are “fine wine” stories, that one sits in a quiet place and savours, tilting the glass to enjoy the colour, perhaps with a string quartet playing quietly in the background. I read Lisa Mason’s book first, and I’m quite impressed, not only by the writing, which gleams and sparkles, but also by her versatility. I also really like her afterwords to each story, which tell something of the genesis of each one. (Now, before you start thinking this is just a lovefest for Lisa Mason—hey, I’m married and so is she—I have to say that there’s a flaw in one or two of the stories! Yes, in one place she says “Ya’ll” instead of “Y’all”; that’s one of those things that we OCD Grammar Police types just can’t stand!) But seriously, folks, all seven of these stories are very good. The book starts with “The Oniomancer,” previously published in Asimov’s; a tale about a bicycle messenger with a pink mohawk and sticky fingers. (No, she’s not a thief, but one of her mantras is “finders, keepers,” and she finds a lot of stuff. Oniomancy is… well, read the story and you’ll know.) I loved this one; it’s SF with just a hint of fantasy. Mason follows that one with a little tale about a woman who has worked her butt off to be able to move up to a swanky condo, but there’s a sneak thief in the area, one with a taste for wilful destruction. Vaughn Kennedy discovers that a veve is good for more than just decoration. “Felicitas” is a horror/fantasy about a shapechanger; what ends well for the  protagonist may not end well for other people! All the previous stories are somewhat standard SF/F, but with the fourth story, Mason starts really stretching her writing muscles; she is a wordsmith, and “Stripper” is where she starts strutting her stuff in this collection. And the next story, “Triad,” goes off into full-on fireworks—both in the writing and the science-fictional bending of gender roles (inspired, she says in her afterword, by Ursula K. LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness)… it sparkles, whirls and fizzes. Mason is clearly a writer to follow! And one more: her modern take on Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland is an hilarious gem! Along with all the SF/F, I grew up reading those two books (Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass), so I got every single reference. And I laughed all the way through this story; if you know the books I practically guarantee you’ll laugh too! (I won’t describe every story in this anthology, for the same reason I don’t like to give spoilers; I think there should be a few surprises and a little mystery left once you’ve read a review.)

Figure 4 - Collected Stories by Lewis Shiner cover

Figure 4 – Collected Stories by Lewis Shiner cover

Now I’m going to touch on a few more stories from this collection, and my next “touch” is Lewis Shiner. Again with the personal reminiscences: I grew up with Big Band music—my Australian mother was a child of the Big Band era; she loved Glenn Miller, the Dorsey brothers, Bix Beiderbecke, and so on. “Perfidia,” the first story in Shiner’s collection, is about Glenn Miller, more or less. It’s also about the lies government tells us and those we tell each other—both lies of commission and omission. And, basically, it’s about being human and having human appetites. “Perfidia” is the name of a famous song by the Glenn Miller band; for those of you who weren’t steeped in ‘40s musical lore, Miller was a trombonist, composer and arranger; his band was famous for such goodies as “In the Mood,” “String of Pearls,” “American Patrol” and, yes, “Perfidia.” He went into the Army and was put to work entertaining the troops. On an Army plane from Britain to the Continent, he famously vanished in December 1944 and was never heard from again. This story explores (and perhaps explains) that disappearance and so much more. Amazing work. I look forward to exploring the rest of Shiner’s work in this collection.

Figure 5 - What I Didn't See (Fowler) cover by Erica Harris

Figure 5 – What I Didn’t See (Fowler) cover by Erica Harris

Dipping into Karen Joy Fowler’s What I Didn’t See collection I find first, a cautionary tale for wayward teenagers… but so much more in the first story. The second one tells us of Edwin Booth, once the most famous Shakespearean act in the United States; his Hamlet made him a household name, until he was overshadowed by his brother, John Wilkes Booth. Is there redemption for the family of one of the first and most famous assassins in the country? Read it and find out. And these are just three of the eight books in the StoryBundle!

What wonders, what pearls and jewels are waiting for me in the books I haven’t opened? Why don’t you get your own copy and discover along with me? The link is above; if you don’t have an e-reader, free apps are available for PC, Android, phone, tablet, etc. The books come to you in both epub (Kindle) and mobi format, and they’re DRM-free, so you can move them from one of your devices to another—but please, don’t share them with anyone. The StoryBundle is such a good bargain that anyone should be able to afford their own!

*Last words: I don’t know if I remembered to mention, but they’re reviving the TV series Prison Break (2005-2009), starring Dominic Purcell, Wentworth Miller and Robert Knepper. (I doubt Sara Wayne Callies will return, as we saw her head in a box in one of the last episodes. But hey! They’re bringing Michael (Wentworth Miller) back, and they told us he was dead, too!) It will be filmed—as a lot of series are (many of the CW series, like The Flash, The Arrow, Supergirl season 2 as well as Supernatural and more shows and movies are)—in the Vancouver area. Some of my wife’s (the B&T LTF), “bots” are in local area shops, like Bird on a Wire; and one of her bots was purchased specifically for use in the background somewhere in the new series. We’re really chuffed about that, and will be watching each episode very closely.
Last Words II: Also, did I mention that I’m nominated for an Aurora Award? That’s the Canadian Hugo, in case you didn’t know. If you’re a Canadian—even one living abroad—you can vote for me, if you like my column enough. Unlike the Hugos, it only costs $10 (CDN) to join the Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association (CSFFA) for a year, which makes you eligible to vote. If you sign up today, you will be able to read ALL the nominated works (including graphic works) for that $10, so that you can vote knowledgeably. But hurry, like the Storybundle above, your time is limited! Whether you vote for me or not (but I hope you do!), voting begins on June 15 and ends on July 23! Time is running out, so send in your $10 (no boxtops needed). I’ll remind you again as we get closer, okay?
Please comment on this week’s column if you have the time and inclination. You can comment here or on my Facebook page, or in the several Facebook groups where I publish a link to this column—but I see the Facebook comments first. All your comments are welcome whether you agree with me or not. My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owners, editors, publishers or other bloggers. See you next week!

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