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Book Review

Book Cover

Subtle Edens
An Anthology of Slipstream Fiction


Editor: Allen Ashley
Elastic Press
RRP: £7.99, US $15.00
ISBN: 978 0 9553181 9 1
Available 01 November 2008

Subtle Edens contains twenty two short stories in what has become known as 'Slipstream', a genre of writing which uses differing blends to create something new, as such, for a mainstream audience they may be considered somewhat experimental. Lest this scares you off remember that writing, like any other art form, is at its best when it is pushing boundaries and by its nature is an adaptive beast. The novel is only about three hundred years old and although it has retained many basic characteristics its history is defined almost as much by change and experimentation within a particular form and format.

Subtle Edens: An Anthology of Slipstream Fiction, edited by Allen Ashley, brings together a number of the more recent forays into, what is hopefully, a relatively undiscovered country, fans of hard fantasy and science fiction may wish to check their prejudices at the door before venturing inside. For those unfamiliar with the concept there are two important pieces to read. The first is the informative introduction by Allen Ashley, Mapping the Unmapped, and Jeff Gardiner’s Nomads of the Slipstream. Both pieces try to define what the genre is, ultimately by stating what it is not, such a malleable form, unless it is to be trapped in its own conventions should be by its very nature indefinable.

Within the covers you’ll discover stories which feel almost traditional, such as God’s Country by A.B. Goelman, traditional in the sense that the story had a beginning middle and an end, as it fuses the American Western with elements of fantasy which demonstrates kinship with Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter.

Other stories are little more than unsettling vignettes, providing enough information to unnerve the reader, often without really knowing why. The best example of this is probably Saxophony by Marion Pitman, which provides a distinct lack of specific information, just enough to tease and tantalise you, creating a sense of unworldlyness which haunts you even after you’ve finished the story.

To detail each story individually would be a disservice, as the stories need to be experienced. Part of the lack of information will draw you in, play on your own personal sense of unease, often persuading that the fantastic can be found in the most unlikely places.


Charles Packer

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