Fantastic Texas by Lou Antonelli

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Fantastic Texas

by Lou Antonelli

“A Rocket for the Republic”
“The Witch of Waxahachie”
“The Cast Iron Dybbuk”
“Silence is Golden”
“The Rocket-Powered Cat”
“Rome, If You Want To”
“Big Girl”
“The Silver Dollar Saucer”
“Body by Fisher”
“Video Killed the Radio Star”
“Professor Malakoff’s Amazing Ethereal Telegraph”

Reviewed by Bob Blough

This is the first short story collection by a Texas journalist who has been publishing almost ten years with over 40 stories published in various venues.  These 15 stories all take place in his beloved adopted state of Texas.

Lou Antonelli is a journalist and thus has a journalist’s simple and clear style of writing; he is easy to read.  His voices for his characters are delightfully idiosyncratic.  You will not find any conceptually mind-blowing stories here, nor any literarily exciting fictions but you will find 140 pages of the best kind of “popcorn” fiction or beach reading, and this is a good thing.  These are all enjoyable and perfect examples of well written SF in a sort of 1950’s mode, which I enjoy.  

The first story was Antonelli’s first publication in Asimov’s, a story Gardner Dozois bought just before announcing his retirement.  “A Rocket for the Republic” is one of Antonelli’s “monologue” stories.  It is an old man telling his life story to a journalist.  A very old man.  The story he tells is related in wonderful dialect about an alternate Texas where a rocket ship was launched in the 1800’s before the civil war.  It’s delightful.  Kind of Texas steampunk, if you will.

The next offering also concerns a journalist doing his job.  (You will find–naturally–journalism being a major thread throughout a lot of this collection.)  This one is about parallel worlds. The world next to ours works on the principle of magic rather than science.  It’s charming.

In “Avatar” a survivor after a nuclear conflagration gets a history lesson from a descendent of the Aztecs. “Silence is Golden” tells about the discovery of radioactive “mercury” in a mining concern in East Texas (another monologue story with a wonderfully regional voice), “Rome, If You Want To” is about very unusual tourists in Houston during a record setting heat wave, and “Professor Malakoff”s Amazing Ethereal Telegraph” is another “western steampunk” story about a magician who can feel telegraph signals in the metal of his teeth and how he uses that to bilk rubes in the back areas of Texas.

Other stories include “Video Killed the Radio Star” which deals with over-zealous, over-rich, and over-whelming Texans who want to set up their own republic in the near future; “Body by Fisher” concerns a Buick that runs on gasoline in a future of electric cars and how it is useful in a major emergency; “The Silver Dollar Saucer” tells the tale of two outlaws taken to a spaceship and who use their native wit to return to earth; “The Cast Iron Dybbuk” (great title) and what came out of it; another monologue by a grandmother explaining why her granddaughter is such a “Big Girl,” and “The Rocket-Powered Cat,” a short story about internet dating services with a major sting in its tail.

All in all an enjoyable read on a lazy Sunday afternoon.  Put your feet up or go get a tan and enjoy some breezy  1950’s-type SF stories.

Fantastic Texas by Lou Antonelli
Fantastic Books, Tpb, Feb. 2010