CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 14. . . .December 3, 2010.
Tesseracts 14: Strange Canadian Stories.
John Robert Colombo & Brett Alexander Savory, eds.
Calgary AB: Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2010.
287 pp., pbk., $17.95.
Grades 9 and up /Ages 14 and up.
Review by Ronald Hore.
Poo Lady appears one day in Duntroon. She pushes an old-fashioned blue baby carriage and wears a green housecoat. She has curlers in her hair. Local children believe she rolls poo that she finds in the park, maybe even her own, into her hair. They also believe that there is a baby made of poo bouncing around in the pram. There is a literal aura around this woman, a fecal spell, and it is believed that if you even say her name, Poo Lady, or, God forbid, ever spoke to her, that your breath would smell of farts for the rest of your life. Everything about her, the colour of green, the thin black wheels, the filthy fart cigarette in her mouth had done something unspeakable to someone at some point. The worst part of her is the lie, the horrible pushing as if a baby was actually in there. Genevieve and Ben shudder. She has passed the window. (From "Giant Scorpions Attack.")
This volume contains 20 stories and 20 poems representing an original collection of contemporary Canadian fantastic literature. The subtitle describes Tesseracts 14 as "Strange Canadian Stories" and later, in the foreword, suggests that fantastic literature includes Science Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, and Weird Fiction. Opening with a four page Foreword and a one page Acknowledgments by one of the two editors, the book closes with a two page Afterword and an Acknowledgments by the second editor, plus a four page listing of additional works by this publisher.
The first tale, “Giant Scorpions Attack,” follows the adventures of two precocious children as they prepare a map of their community, listing some of the unusual characters who inhabit it.
“The Director’s Cut” tells of a movie-maker and his hopeless love.
In “Rocketship Red,” readers meet a youth who dreams of becoming a rocket pilot.
The next story, “Soil From My Fingers,” turns to fantasy and tells of a man who plots to dispose of a problem daughter by selling her to his Pasha.
“The Brief Medical Career of Fine Sam Fine” is a tale of two sisters who are closer than most families but in a very unusual way.
Next is “Harvest Moon,” a story in a rural setting, with certain happenings that take place when the moon is full.
“Heat Death, or Answering the Ouroboros Question,” follows the path of a trickster god, Fox, and his ferret, as they avoid other vengeful gods near the end of our universe.
In “Destiny Lives in the Tattoo’s Needle,” readers follow the adventures of a soldier, classified a Thinker, who is parachuted into a difficult situation.
“Nights in White Linen” tells the tale of a group of university students and some of their unusual extra-curricular nighttime activities.
“The Machinery of Government” covers an invasion of Canada from the point-of-view of a government minister.
The story, “Grandmother’s Babies,” tells of a man who does a good deed for a stranger, with unusual results.
“Basements,” a story set in a clandestine subdivision, pits government operatives against a very unusual prisoner.
In a futuristic tale, “Random Access Memory,” gaming and betting take a dangerous direction.
“Nightward” is a story set on a distant planet of unusual nights and days where men hunt gryphons.
The next story in the anthology, “Hydden,” tells of evolutionary changes and the struggle between old and new.
“The Pickup” is about a group of soldiers awaiting rescue who find themselves stranded in a land wracked by a deadly plague.
In another story that takes the reader to distant worlds, anthropologists study their subjects in “Flight of Passage.”
A collection of 12 unusual books, all written by the same man, are described in the story “Vermillion Dreams The Complete Works of Bram Jameson.”
Next, readers find a collection of 20 poems, with a group of three poems appearing under the caption “Near the Ends of Things,” and a second group of eight under “Ghosts, Monsters, Superheros and Scientists.” These are followed by a collection of nine poems listed under the title “Beautiful with Want.” Even readers who do not enjoy poetry should find something they like among the gems here.
The poetry is followed by the story “One Nation Under Gods” which describes a North America where certain aspects have taken on life as sometimes vengeful gods.
The final piece in the anthology, “The Transformed Man,” is an essay by Robert J. Sawyer, probably the most famous science-fiction writer in the group who contributed to the collection. His brief thoughts touch on diverse personal topics such as science-fiction, computers and "the next big thing."
The contents of Tesseracts 14 are well-written, and the anthology is certainly varied in content and length, Readers of the strange and fantastic will find something to enjoy between the covers of this collection of this year’s strange Canadian short stories.
Ronald Hore, involved with writer’s groups for several years, retired from the business world in Winnipeg, MB.
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