All Of These Books Are Just Like The Others

A field guide to recent short story collections by Matt Cheney.

The phylum of book known as the short story collection has, in the past few years, proved itself strong and resilient within the general landscape of what usually gets referred to as science fiction and/or fantasy, that archipelago of amusement parks prominent on the map of our literary dreams.

Yep. Absolutely. These are really good times for genre short story collections. I’m not entirely convinced that Cheney’s selection demonstrates the case, though. Certainly the books listed are good, but I think suggesting it represents the full diversity of the genre short story is a bit misleading. It seems more like a personal overview; the books listed have the fantasy/fabulist/surreal end of things covered, but there isn’t much, well, science fiction.

To balance things out a bit, I suggest that anyone using the article as a guide of things to investigate adds Ian R. Macleod’s Past Magic, Paul McAuley’s Little Machines, Maureen F. McHugh’s Mothers and Other Monsters, and Bruce Sterling’s Visionary in Residence to their wishlists, too. For starters. (Checking out China Mieville’s Looking for Jake and Joe Hill’s 20th Century Ghosts wouldn’t hurt, either.)

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Posted in books. 5 Comments »

5 Responses to “All Of These Books Are Just Like The Others”

  1. Torque Control » Blog Archive » Out of the Silent Blog … Says:

    […] Matt Cheney’s overview of recent short story collections and my gripe with the same. […]

  2. Ariel Says:

    “..Ian R. Macleod’s Past Magic, Paul McAuley’s Little Machines, Maureen F. McHugh’s Mothers and Other Monsters, and Bruce Sterling’s Visionary in Residence to their wishlists, too. For starters. (Checking out China Mieville’s Looking for Jake and Joe Hill’s 20th Century Ghosts wouldn’t hurt, either.)”

    Three of which (MacLeod, McAuley and Hill) were all published right here in Blighty by PS Publishing, of course… and let’s not forget Elastic Press’s ‘Elastic Book of Numbers’, and ‘Alsiso Project’ which were very well received as well. Was it just me, or was there a definite US-only-bias in Matt’s original article?

  3. Niall Says:

    Ariel — I got the impression the article was specifically about collections, rather than anthologies, which is one reason I didn’t mention Elastic Press (or, say, Twenty Epics). It’s also probably only fair to note that with exchange rates being what they are, getting hold of PS books in the US is probably prohibitively expensive.

  4. Matt Cheney Says:

    Well, of course anyone could add and add to a list, and thus any list is personal, but I don’t think the Mieville or Hill, for instance, would have shown any tremendous difference from what is there (Joel Lane and Elizabeth Bear cover some of that territory), and both books have gotten a lot of notice, so I went in favor of the lesser-known. Sterling would have been a very good addition, indeed, and if I’d thought of it I would have tried to get a copy before finishing the piece. I was trying to stick to relatively recent books, so didn’t do the McHugh, a copy of which I’ve had for well over a year now. The MacLeod and McAuley I have to claim ignorance of — I didn’t even know they exist (I try to be omniscient, but fail more often than not…) The U.S. bias is because those are the books I have the most access to (though Tamar Yellin and Joel Lane are both British), so there’s no denying it’s a U.S.-centric list, alas.

  5. Niall Says:

    I was trying to stick to relatively recent books, so didn’t do the McHugh, a copy of which I’ve had for well over a year now

    Which is fair enough, although I can’t help noting that the Aguirre came out in October 2005, and the Emshwiller dates from April 2005. Similarly, I’m all for giving attention to less-widely-reviewed books, I just read the article as claiming to be more representative than I think it actually is.

    (Tangentially, we seem to be in for a killer autumn: Susanna Clarke’s The Ladies of Grace Adieu, Elizabeth Hand’s Saffron & Brimstone, M. Rickert’s Map of Dreams, Al Reynolds’ Galactic North and Zima Blue and Other Stories, Stephen Baxter’s Resplendent, Glen Hirshberg’s American Morons …)


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