Monday, September 29, 2008

Logorrhea: Good Words Make Good Stories

I borrowed this anthology from my library with high hopes: it has been nominated for a World Fantasy award for best anthology, as well as two nominations for individual short stories. I thought about posting my story-by-story impression of the anthology, but that got inconceivably blathery, so let's boil it down ...

The basic concept of Logorrhea is stories inspired by winning words from the Scripps National Spelling Bee. There were some excellent speculative stories, both in our contemporary world and others, that used their word to good effect. Overall ... I was disappointed that the great majority of the stories were modern earth in setting. This is a matter of personal taste, but one of my favorite things about speculative fiction is the worldbuilding. There were also only two science fiction stories in the anthology (both were fantastic,though).

This brings me to the more troubling point: several of the stories simply weren't speculative fiction. A few of them might be taken as slipstream, but the element seemed token to me, added just so it could be sold to a speculative anthology. A couple other stories didn't really use their word. This gets me wondering - is this the future of speculative fiction? Broadening the horizon is one thing, normalizing it is another.

Be that as may, some of the stories were excellent, much of the writing was superb, and I fully agree with the two award nominations. Points of note:

Highlights: Lyceum by Liz Williams (one of the aforementioned SF stories); The Cambist and Lord Iron by David Abraham (award nominee #1); From Around Here by Tim Pratt (autochthonous); Crossing The Seven by Jay Lake (transept - though I am not sure this is a "legal" use of the word); The Euonymist by Neil Williamson (the other SF story); Singing of Mount Abora by Theodora Goss (dulcimer; award nominee #2).
... since when is dulcimer hard to spell? Maybe I need to get out of the folk music world.
Low Points: A Portrait in Ivory by Michael Moorcook (insouciant); Logorrhea by Michelle Richmond (the irony abounds, I know); Vignette by Elizabeth Hand; The Last Elegy by Michael Cheney (elegiacal); Tsuris by Leslie What (psoriasis).
(Shoulda Been) Disqualified: Semaphore by Alex Irvine (not spec); A Portrait in Ivory by Michael Moorcook (bad use of word); Vignette by Elizabeth Hand (not spec); The Last Elegy by Michael Cheney (elegiacal - not spec); Softer by Paolo Baciagalupi (marcerate - not spec, tenuous use of word); Tsuris by Leslie What (psoriasis - not spec, bad use of word).

I note that I did enjoy both Semaphore and Softer in their own right, just didn't think they belonged in a speculative fiction anthology. If it were billed as a general anthology, that would be another thing.

Overall, I thought the anthology was a bit too heavy on style and the substance suffered, but there were also beautiful moments and stories that balanced the two perfectly. If you want to cherry-pick, I recommend skipping the low points and disqualifieds, with the possible exception of the two in the above paragraph. The rest of the anthology has something for every palette.


Daniel Ausema said...

I'm it really labeled as a spec-fic anthology? I mean, it comes from John Klima and it includes primarily speculative writers, but I don't remember it stating anywhere that it's specifically a spec-fic antho. In fact, I know it was marketed quite well to a general audience rather than (or in addition to) those readers who identify themselves as speculative readers.

Anyway, I took this out from the library a while ago but only found time to read a handful of the stories. I've been meaning to check it out again ever since--thanks for reminding me!

Lindsey Duncan said...
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Lindsey Duncan said...

What might have built that expectation for me was the WFC award nomination. So I was coming into it with that filter. The marketing I saw was muddy ... though you may be right, which would alter my commentary.

Of course, I'm not sure I liked most of the mainstream stories ANYway, but that comes down to taste. ;)