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Intracities, edited by Michael Jasper
Posted byJeff Verona
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"City Limits" by Chris Babson "Dreams Unfathomable" by Jay Caselberg "Vodka Through a Straw" by Peter Hagelslag "Flow of Time and Water" by Rachel S. Heslin "Iron Heaven" by Jay Lake "The Lost and Found of Years" by Claude Lalumière "Enlightenment" by Jason Erik Lundberg "Just Like Venice, Only Not" by Mary Madewell "Mom and Pop" by Paul E. Martens "Broken Branches" by Heather Shaw and Tim Pratt "Heat" by Mark Siegel "Where the Centaurs Roam" by Jeffrey Turner "Restless" by Melissa Yuan-Innes
Wraparound cover by Hugo-nominated artist Frank Wu
In his introduction, editor Michael Jasper positions Intracities as an anthology of stories of re-envisioned places. Some of the pieces are straight realism, others pure fantasy, but most inhabit the space between.
Writing about place inevitably means drawing connections – to the place as it is and was, to related places, and to larger myths and legends. "Restless" by Melissa Yuan-Innes, which is rooted in the old story of Ahasuerus, and the fairytale-Russia-meets-H. P. Lovecraft of "Vodka Through a Straw" by Peter Hagelslag, do little more than make the connection to the larger myth. Similarly, the odd urban predator of Jay Caselberg’s "Dreams Unfathomable" and the marginal inhabitants of Mary Madewell’s Las Vegas in "Just Like Venice, Only Not" never quite come into focus.
Rather than drawing on a specific inspiration, the more successful stories reference wider myths. Under its quirky exterior, "Heat" by Mark Siegel is "hero solves problem" in the Golden Age mode. Chris Babson tackles America’s ambivalence toward locality in "City Limits," in which our obsession with obliterating and rebuilding our borders – our "sprawl" – bumps up against older notions of land and place. Jay Lake’s "Iron Heaven" draws inspiration from the railroads and the forgotten Chinese immigrants who built them. The legacy of "Flow of Time and Water" by Rachel S. Heslin has become a burden for its holder, who searches for a way to pass it along. All told, these stories point out that America’s problems with place are perhaps more accurately rooted in time.
The remaining tales are largely self-contained. Heather Shaw and Tim Pratt offer up an urban fantasy in "Broken Branches," which stumbles at the climax but otherwise flows well. The protagonist of Jason Erik Lundberg’s "Enlightenment" grapples with the sudden discovery that he’s the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. His eventual decision reveals that he has perhaps found his own enlightenment. "Mom and Pop" by Paul E. Martens, about a literal "Mom and Pop" store, offers up some sly observations on the parents we wish we had. "Where the Centaurs Roam" by Jeffrey Turner takes the reader on a wild ride through an Old West populated by mechanical centaurs and the disembodied head of Rasputin. The strongest story in the anthology, Claude Lalumière’s "The Lost and Found of Years," makes effective use of its clipped style as a writer discovers the hazards of inspiration and the dangers of one’s inner terrain.
On the whole, Intracities succeeds more often than not. The concept is intriguing; perhaps the editor will consider future numbers.