Allred, Lee. Assembled Allred: 7 Tales by the Master Sergeant of Alternate History. Lincoln City, OR: Rookhouse Books, 2012. 171 pages. $14.99 in trade paperback, $8.99 Kindle. Reviewed by Jonathan Langford.
Much of science fiction is written in the spirit of What if? What if humans could fly? What if there were aliens among us? What if you could go back in time and marry your own grandmother? (Thanks for that one, Heinlein!)
The best of these questions are never just about science or technology. They invite us, instead, to consider what is real and constant — and what changes — in human hearts and minds and spirits, and societies. They prod us to reflect on our values and challenge our own easy answers about what is right and wrong. For all the conflict many readers and writers see between science fiction and religion, there’s a surprisingly large shared space (in my opinion, and that of many Mormon sf&f readers) between the kind of imagination needed to explore the stars, if only mentally, and a cosmology that sees the bounds of current mortality as merely a proscenium on eternity. Or maybe it’s mortality that’s the strictly bounded stage, and religion — and imaginative fiction — a mental transition space between where we are and the boundless limits of possibility?
Allred’s stories explore that space. They ask not only what if history had been a little bit different, what if the Mormons had repeating rifles during the Utah War, but also what if (for example) a magical implement could remove the signs of cowardice, at the price of blood? Or T. H. Huxley wound up after death in a Hell he didn’t believe in during life? The answers tickle the imagination; at their best, they engage the heart as well.
In editing The Fob Bible, I ignored any agony at including my own work. The constraints of the anthology demanded it. With Monsters and Mormons, I was planning on stepping aside and not filling any pages with my own writing. After all, I have generally found it rather obnoxious when editors include their own work. The first time I remember thinking this was reading a humor collection edited by Louis Untermeyer (Amazon). The book, he claimed, contained only the best work from the English-speaking world’s funniest writers. And then he included himself. So I judged him by his own standard (only twice as hard) and that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing since. And I’ve read enough anthologies now to know that 75% of the time, the editor’s stories show—not surprisingly—the least editing. more →
If you know anything about Angela Hallstrom, you should know that she is a person of taste and a keen parser of literariness.
And if you followed my Twitter reviews of her new short story collection (archived here–scroll up for the key), then you know that I did not feel equally positive about every story she collected. In fact, some I didn’t really care for at all. But not liking a story in a collection–or even several stories–is a far cry from disliking a collection.
This is the third and final entry in this series. The first part of our interview was about Ms Hallstom’s novel-in-stories Bound on Earth. The second was about her editorship of the literary journal Irreantum. This third portion is about the short-story collection, Dispensation: Latter-day Fiction, that she edited for Zarahemla Books (review).
. Let’s start with what criteria a story had to meet to even be considered for inclusion. What were the ground rules going in to this anthology? more →