Monday, May 16, 2016

Shadow Show Me

The anthology Shadow Show comes with the subtitle "All-new short stories in celebration of Ray Bradbury." Which they are. This is gathering of stories written in honor of science fiction's greatest crossover author. Asimov belonged to science fiction fans, but Bradbury belonged to everyone.

The book was published in 2012, the same year Bradbury died. He contributes a short and good natured foreword. Naturally the book stands in his shadow. In truth a lot of the stories presented here seem more influenced by Ray Bradbury's reputation than by his methods. What few capture, and what is very difficult to capture, is the way he emerged along the course of the 1940s as a skewed and sometimes disturbing storyteller.

A few do stand out as tapping into this strange side of Bradbury:

"Little America" by Dan Chaon: A man drives cross-country with a boy, a boy that he keeps tied up and whose nails he makes sure or trim. There's a reason for this, and it's not what you think, and the gradual revelation is pretty cunning.

"Phone Call" by John McNally: A man with a Ziggy-like record of never winning calls into the past and tries to intervene in the murder of his mother by her boyfriend, who seems to have also killed his father. Notable for the interesting place it ends up, plot-wise and emotionally.

"Hayleigh's Dad" by Julia Keller: Sharon and Hayleigh are friends. Sharon likes Hayleigh's dad more than her own, understandably. Hayleigh's dad has told them never to go in the basement. Even if you see much of this one coming, it's still hella creepy.

"Two Houses" by Kelly Link: A crew in deep space exploration awake from cryonic sleep and begin telling ghost stories in a VR recreation of an old mansion. Needless to say, it gets stranger from there. It's fascinating to watch Link mix styles and themes from her own stories with bit's of ol' Ray's, including "The Illustrated Man" and "The Veldt."


susan said...

With some exceptions*, in general I prefer long books to short stories, but one of the exceptions was Ray Bradbury's 'Illustrated Man' in which he covered a wide range of topics. He had the ability of writing stories that were incredibly poignant without ever being overly sentimental. If this book has stories that come anywhere close (and it appears some may), then it sounds as though it's an anthology worth reading. I'll see if our library has a copy.

* Arthur Conan Doyle, O. Henry, HP Lovecraft, Jack London, Saki, Rudyard Kipling, BCG Jones, etc.

Ben said...

The upside of short fiction is that you can experience a new concept, a new approach, a few times in one sitting. There are certainly novels I like, and most of the time I'm in the process of reading one. But short stores when done well are a rare treat, one that isn't done much anymore in any other medium. Of course the "done well" is the tricky part. An anthology or even single author collection can be a wildly uneven affair.

That's mostly a solid list you've got, although the Jones fellow still has to prove himself to me. :)