ed. Duane Burry, Vincent Mackay & Alexander Newcombe, 148 pgs, hbm-anthology.com, $15 print/$4.99 eBook
Collecting work by authors with conventionally-published books behind them (Claude Lalumière, Camille Alexa, Ann Ewan), emerging writers like Rich Larson and 2012 Howard O’Hagan Award winner Amy Bright, along with its three founding editors, Here Be Monsters 7 keeps its promise to celebrate the weird and wonderful in short fiction. And though this has always been the modus operandi, issue 7 is only the second to be labelled “speculative fiction.” As might therefore be expected, the stories push at the limits of just what SF is.
Alexa’s “Children of the Device” is hard science fiction, a log-style account of four years aboard a spaceship filled with embryos intended to colonize of a new planet, and the narrator’s irrepressible maternal impulse, and Burry’s “Numbered” is in the same vein, telling of campers who discover a device that lets them communicate with aliens. Ewan’s “Ogre Baby” is a gory sliver of hypothetical backstory for her next fantasy-adventure novel, while “Cobbled,” by Tarquin Steiner — the most stylistically novel work in the collection — tells a noir-like story in the format of a text-based computer game.
Given the wide range of ground the collection covers, it’s unlikely every reader will like every story — so if it’s all relative anyway. My favourites were Bright’s “Private Transit,” which found the weirdness in a highly realist setting, Karl Johanson’s laugh-out-loud sci-fi flash fict piece “The Airlock Scene,” and Cat McDonald’s “Sterrenacht,” which, using a conceit that recalls Woody Allen’s “The Kugelmass Episode,” tells vividly of a “diver” who rescues people from works of art — Van Gogh’s Starry Night, in this case. On the whole, it’s a collection that makes it easy for the reader to identify with McDonald’s heroine, closing eyes with each new story and waiting for his or her own office “to smear, stretch and disappear.” (Daniel Perry)