04 September 2012

Short SF&F Week: Dark Currents edited by Ian Whates

Kindle eBook, n.pag.
Published 2012
Acquired March 2012

Read July 2012
Dark Currents
edited by Ian Whates

This is a loosely-themed-- very loosely-themed-- anthology of short science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories, themed around the vague phrase "dark currents" or "dark tides." I went for it because Una McCormack, whose written some excellent Star Trek and Doctor Who tales, was in it; virtually all the other contributors, as well as the editor, were new to me.

The book gets off to a bad start with Adrian Tchaikovsky's "The Fall of Lady Sealight." It might be a good story, I dunno. Were I ever to be so privileged as to edit an anthology, I would not lead off with a story that is hard to get. Short stories, through necessities created by their shortness, can often require a lot of work to figure out what's happening, and that's work I think the reader should be eased into. Start off with something simple. This was a lot of work to figure out what was happening, and I did not yet feel like doing it. So it could be a good story, I just never figured out what was happening ay all.  It wasn't the only story like this, but it was the most memorable unmemorable one!

I don't read a lot of horror, and my only foray into short horror produced mixed results, but I ended up liking most of the horror offerings here. Many of them revolved around the ocean as you might imagine, and they managed to produce varying degrees of unease to great effect. "The Age of Entitlement" by Adam Nevill is about a man who finally realizes how spoiled his best friend is in a weird, postapocalyptic setting. "The Barricade" by Nina Allen was a wonderfully disconcerting story about doubt and a collapsing relationship and a painting with unearthly power. And "Bells Ringing Under the Sea" by Sophia McDougall, about a man trying to explain what happened to the love of his life, was splendidly creepy, perhaps my favorite story in the book.

Some of the stories are supershort and cute in exactly the way that short fiction should never be because it makes it terrible; Tricia Sullivan's "Electrify Me" is such a tale, for example. On the other hand, some are long and still feel like lopped-off beginnings of novels. Rod Rees's "Electric Currents" is a fun story of a 19th-century Martian invasion featuring Nikolai Tesla and Theodore Roosevelt (even if it does have some weird plotting), but then it just stops without a real end in a way that makes you think the author ran out of words. Finn Clarke's "Loose Connections" also has an interesting set up (even if the world-building doesn't wholly convince), but again, the story just stops right as it's getting started.

But on the whole, this was an enjoyable anthology. Some were forgettable, sure, but then there were gems like "Lost Sheep" by Neil Williamson, about a wannabe-privateer who meets a spaceship full of nuns who are part-sheep!  Strangely and unfortunately, "In Tauris" by Una McCormack ended up not leaving much of an impression.  But a thin theme turns out to be a good theme: "dark currents" is vague enough to keep the stories diverse, but it still ties the book together and produces some things you suspect the writers wouldn't've thunk up themselves.

(A small note of complaint: my Kindle eBook edition could be better done. Each story ends with a link to the "author notes," but this take you to the beginning of the "About the Authors" section, not the entry for your specific story. When there's no headers atop every page, it's too easy to forget who wrote a story by the time it's over!)

No comments:

Post a Comment