Friday, July 27, 2012

Short Fiction is so not dead.....

I love short fiction collections of all kinds and with all the original anthologies coming out now you can'c help but miss some here and there. This is even more true of authors like Jeffrey Ford who's fiction falls well into numerous genre's. I'e read a bit of his work here and there and getting a collection like is a treat. I got my ARC copy from the author himself a couple weeks back.

Crackpot palace is collected from the last 4 years covering a wide range of fiction; noir, steampunk, Sword and sorcery, memoir , almost all weird and some hard to pigeon hole all is his enigmatic and appealing style. He follows up the the stories with an easter egg essay about the creation or inspiration for the story. His stories remind me of the best of staying up late to watch Twilight Zone, Night Gallery and Creature Features they all take you along on a trip that is exiting and touched with danger and mystery. I have not yet read his novels but this is a taste of something I want more of.

He opens the collection with an introduction which is equal parts hallucination, daydream and welcome. It is in itself a little piece of weird storytelling that strikes me as a bit of how he gets his ideas. The are several shorter pieces in the the book that are great pastiches Polkadots and Moonbeams is the first tale and it sticks with you with its 60's americana setting and noir hip jazzy story. After Moreau takes you to an all together different interpretation of the Wells story from the animal angle that familiar is very new and creepy. In his story Ganesha he explores the folklore of India and I think may be my favorite tale for its take or creativity and respect for the other. Dr. Lash Remembers is a unique steampunk story that goes to places that are uncommon for the genre and need to be more explored.

I have to admit to being a bit of a horror fan and that is the appeal of many of the other stories in the collection; they hit that sweet spot between weird and shocking that did give me just the bit of a chill I look for. This was even true of the stories that had no mystical or weird element to them including his memoir tale. I could hit the titles that gave me these feelings but in some ways I do think that would be telling and since it was cool to find which stories were factual in some ways was great too. A few of the easter egg essays clued me into my ignorance of the folklore of our own country particularly New Jersey and its great to learn something new to look into for a source of mythology.

Jeffrey in a couple of the stories toys with some of the popular mythologies I grew up with. A couple of the stories take a mad scientist tale and run with it. Daltharee is a story that has a miniature bottled city in it that is reminiscent of Kandor and gets to one of those creepy skin crawly endings. I could easily say that the story The Coral Heart, the sword and sorcery tale, struck me as a take of the Michael Moorcock Elric stories feeling familiar but filled with genuine creativity and love for the tradition it comes from. So many of the characters we meet through Jeffrey are quite clearly doomed to make bad choices or even have a bad end but reading their stories is a joy none the less.

I know I have said it several time but the strength of the stories in this collection is their initial familiarity to genre tales we may know in one way or another. He takes what we think we know and adds twists and turns to the familiar hallways of the stories much like the Crackpot Palace in his opening finding new treasures among rooms that seem like ones we know. Short stories are much overlooked by many genre fiction readers who tend towards the doorstops lining the shelves; these short weird tales (and one was in Weird Tales magazine) show the strength of the medium.

He wrote one story for the collection called The Wish Head that tickled the police procedural/crime scene fan in me. Saying much more would give the great bits away as would saying more then a little about his vampire tale or his inclusion of Native mythology in one of his noir pieces. I really just want to wet the appetites for this many course meal of dark weird fiction with bits of reality and wonder thrown in for good measure...

Jeffery Fords website can be found here Crackpot Palace is out on August from Morrow/HarperCollins

Crackpot Palace: Stories
by Jeffrey Ford

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