I picked up this anthology for an odd reason, but sometimes serendipity works in my favor. At my second or third Baycon, I signed up for the writers’ workshop. This was the first time I met both Dario (one of the pros) and Juliette Wade, but we wouldn’t become friends until some time later. However, the story Juliette submitted for critique stuck in my head because of the portrayal of, and reaction to, a character who had OCD.
I mentioned this to Juliette recently, and she told me a much changed version had been published in an anthology from Panverse. Well, I had to read it and see if the distinct memory had more to do with my terror of being in an in-person critique group back then or if the story itself had won the attention.
Juliette’s story, The Eminence’s Match, is much changed. No, I have not gone back to the original version to confirm, but the element that both compelled and repelled me, that of the main character’s cruelty, has been transformed into something beautiful and amazing. Not only did the portrayal hold up, but the changes replaced the repelling parts with moments that sucked me in even more and made me have the best and worst reaction when I got to the end. I mourned the fact that nothing remained to read.
I’d gotten what I wanted from the collection, but I don’t put a book down unread, so I continued on, finding seven more stories that each had something fun and interesting to offer, even the one presented in a format I found a little difficult to read. It’s a strong collection that lives up to its title in offering different perspectives on reality.
Kip, Running by Genevieve Williams offers a glimpse into a world where though Big Brother controls everything, the adventurous spirit finds a way. It’s an adrenalin rush. At the same time, the tale has another layer, looking at the realities we build around ourselves, whether or not others share in them.
The Lonely Heart by Aliette de Bodard is a retelling of a Japanese folk story set in the remains of a city in the process of being abandoned. It’s not about love, though it might seem so, but more about necessity and choices mixed into a lovely, post-apocalyptic like setting.
The Flying Squids of Zondor by Doug Sharp is presented as a movie script, the odd format I mention above. Despite the format, or maybe because of it, the story is interesting and complicated without a clear-cut protagonist and antagonist. Each character is so absorbed in his or her own perceptions that the whole happens without any one driving the events completely. It lives up to the anthology title by exploring the realities that can exist in parallel.
Spoiling Veena by Keyan Bowes looks at genetic manipulation from the perspective of parents facing a world where the genetic code can be rewritten at any moment if you just have enough cash. This is an area I’ve always found fascinating, but have yet to read a story from this angle and so very much enjoyed it.
Man’s Best Enemy by Janice Hardy is set in a true post-apocalyptic world where the few remaining humans fight it out with dogs gone savage. The setting is vicious and well drawn, but the story is so much more than a desperate struggle with a brutal enemy. It’s about earning your place and making things happen even when those in charge have determined another path for you.
Love, Blood, and Octli by T.L. Morganfield retells the meeting between an Aztec god and humans, and how that interaction changed human civilization both for the better and the worse through the differences in human nature. This is no simple story of good and evil, but rather how each person must choose which aspect will dominate how they see and interact with the world.
Dancing by Numbers by Dario Ciriello (Edited by Juliette Wade) is a unique take on the multiverse theory couched in the experiences of a professional dancer who reaches that moment of pure serenity, of becoming one with the universe, only to discover that point is the same across a multiplex of realities. What she does with this knowledge makes up the majority of the story, though it’s not just her but each and every her, and where this knowledge takes all of them that makes the story fascinating.