by Various Authors, Andrew Hook (Ed.)
I lay there, unable to move, remembering what it felt like to die. No one alive should know what that’s like. -Marion Arnott
Consisting of fourteen short stories and one novella, this book contains nine original works and six that were scavenged from prior release and brought under the Elastic umbrella. The press ran from 2002 to 2009, and by editor Andrew Hook’s estimation, the greatest of the stories are gathered here.
They’re remarkable, some spectacularly insightful. As usual there’s a link below to open a doc with a synopsis of each story, but the following are speculative fiction standouts from what must have been an incredible press:
“351073” – Jeff Gardiner – When young Eloise is born, her mother expires. Her father, a preacher, is struggling to name her when he recognizes the number on her armband, 351073, read upside down is ‘Eloise’. Eloise grows up, becomes interested in the occult and numerology, and eventually uncovers her life’s mission while her horrified father struggles to cope with her decisions.
“When We Were Five” – Marion Arnott – A man working in a hotel comes across Valentina, a woman whose body had been shattered by atrocities in mid-20th-century Russia. Valentina shows photographs of when she was younger, slowly divulging her story, while our young man vividly sees each of the horrific acts visited upon her as if he was there in a kind of astral-projection.
“Televisionism”- Maurice Suckling – A man meets a woman in a bar and the two begin dating, but he realizes she’s able to do strange things, like instantly retrieving theater tickets he’s left across town. She goes on air to display her talents to the world while viewers try to explain how she did it, but she wants to do one spectacular act that proves she’s legitimate.
The collection’s not massive, clocking in at a little less than 100,000 words, but it contains more great storytelling than you’ll find in far larger anthologies, and there’s a reason for that.
The focus of the press was seeking out largely unknown authors who could spin yarns better than anyone. No blockbuster names here, and that’s the beauty of it. You weren’t buying names, just stories. And since they couldn’t have (insert bankable stars here) as blurbs on the covers to sell publications, those stories better be knockouts. Don Quixote, meet Andrew Hook.
It’s a shame the press went under. Years later, back from the ether, comes a book that’s everything the best anthologies can be, and proof of what we missed.
Destiny finds short memory convenient, doesn’t it? -Andrew Tisbert