The World and the Stars is an anthology collection of twenty four fantastic (in both senses of the word) science fiction and fantasy stories by various authors.
Dedicated to the late Peter T Garratt, a prolific author of published short stories, one of which is reprinted here, the collection showcases the work of the writer’s group Peter founded, plus some of his friends including perhaps the best known name here, Tanith Lee. Eighteen of the stories have been previously published, six are new works.
Chris Butler did an amazing job of editing, citing in his introduction that he did not choose the stories based on any distinction between science fiction and fantasy, rather on the imagination, purpose and craft of the writer, with the result that quality writing and wildly varied styles are on offer between the covers.
Speaking of covers, this was also supplied by a member of the group (in addition to her story, ‘Dark’). Deirdre Counihan is an artist by profession, and was previously art editor for the excellent genre magazine ‘Scheherazade’.
Here I am, at Eastercon 2015, talking a little about the anthology and how it came into being. I just wish for an app to remove all the ‘ums’ in my speech!
Synopsis of the stories
Mitochondrial Mom (John Frizell) takes us to a future where giving birth is forbidden, if you’re only a Striver. And yet, a security checkpoint, and the facilities beyond, might provide a path to fulfilment for a suitable candidate.
In Ondralume (Tanith Lee) two sisters, Ondain and Unniet, plead with the gods to bring rain to their parched and dying land. But can their sacrifice save their people? The answer might come from another world, or from the stars…
In Substitutes, (Colin P. Davies) offworlders have come to Earth, and Melinda and her Dad are on the run. She sees patterns everywhere, in the stars or in the bubbling water of a stream — but what does this signify, and where will it lead?
Glittering Spires (Elizabeth Counihan) merges Science Fantasy and Austen sensibilities to playful effect. A young princess might well have to navigate not just the mores of her society, but also the wild, fabulous rogues and creatures that inhabit her world…
From the Point of View of the Dog (Daniel Kaysen) is subtly strange not only in terms of the story being told, but also in the manner of its telling. What do we think of when we look up at the moon? What does it mean to us, and to those who share their lives with us? And what should we think of a man who goes out into the empty vastness of space, and chooses to come back home?
MS Found in a Kangian Wintercamp. (Sue Thomason) There is a tradition of “MS Found in a…” stories, which interested readers might like to investigate, perhaps starting with one Edgar Allen Poe. This story is an intriguing science fictional take on the theme. The narrator initially seems to know their purpose in carrying out fieldwork study of the Kangia, but after a “standard mindwipe” is anything known for certain?
In The Battery Caverns, (Nigel Brown) Jak is a member of a clan living within the labyrinthine tunnels of his ‘world’. Conditions are worsening, and fearsome raiding parties from other clans are scavenging for the precious battery pods. To survive, Jak must learn the true nature of his environment, and the cause of the seismic tremors that threaten to tear it apart.
In Dusking, (Liz Williams) a young girl, Emily, longs to escape the watchful gaze of her aunt. But if she goes out into the woodland at night, to see what can be captured there, she might find something darker and more primal than she bargained for.
Golty’s Burrow (Paul Laville) is found on an engineered world that has suffered through a technology Armageddon. Races clash in the ruins, fighting for survival. An evolutionary stalemate needs to be broken if things are to change. But as Lorni and her twin, Prilly, discover, everything has a cost.
Perfect Fit (Deborah Jay) follows a starship travelling to a planet to colonise. But as time passes and resources dwindle, the promised world has not been found. The ‘splicers’ rely on genetech to keep the ship going, but for how long will the inhabitants of the ship tolerate their rule?
In Ten Thousand Moons of Howling, (Gareth Caradoc Owens) the Warchief Olambur stands with his army and priests at the border of the mortal world and the land of the dead, Nuji Giya. To repel the rising dead, Olambur is commanded to give up the Lord of Wits, Din Yirgish. Alliances are forged and battles fought, but in a war between gods and mortals there are bound to be casualties.
The Disappeared (Sarah Singleton) presents us with Britain preparing for war, with paranoia all around. An invitation to the Blue Cat café might well be an enticing proposition, but a reporter should be careful where his curiosity might lead.
The Madness of Pursuit, the Desire of Lonely Hearts (Carmelo Rafala) takes us to alien seas. Captain Agan has promised to help the J’Niah woman Rymah find the mythical city of Anua. In return Rymah allows them to navigate safely, and to plunder ancient artefacts with the promise of untold riches. But when you’re running from the law and pursued by bounty hunters, is there anyone you can trust?
Perhaps the harrowing We Shelter (Leigh Kennedy) occurs in the future, or maybe its story is universal and timeless. It is all too easy to imagine that the sick and dying are somehow less than human.
In Micro Expressions, (Stephen Gaskell) a woman asks to cross a border, to pay homage and pray. But is that her true purpose? A decision must be made to grant or deny her passage. Might the first tentative steps towards a better world be there for the taking?
Filtered (Jenny Davies) takes us into a seemingly normal domestic household, but things are not quite as they appear. We all have challenges to face in life, times of grief or trauma, and many of us would welcome the offer of an easy route through. But would filtering the truth really help?
A Visit to the Unesco World Heritage Site of Évora, Portugal (Alex Robinson) intertwines past and present, reflecting on a dark truth and imagining how it came to be, as a man drives a cart through a torrential storm, desperate to reach Évora.
In Dark, (Deirdre Counihan) the lowly Tegna has duties in the dark underground mineshafts run by his Samalian masters, where he tends the living gates grafted into the tunnels. An expedition to treat an injured gate could lead to unexpected danger, and might change his world forever.
The Return of Odysseus (Peter T. Garratt) reinterprets the events of Homer’s epic poems to tell a somewhat different tale of Odysseus’ journey, of what happened when he failed to return, and what happened when he did return. Perhaps the version of a story that is handed down might not always be the truth, but rather the one we would most like to believe.
The Court of High Renown (Cherith Baldry) takes us to a mysterious enclave, shaped by its Queen and her Court. But is everything within the castle and the surrounding forest as unreal as it seems? And is there anything beyond the fading horizon?
Last Resting Place. (Matt Colborn) The planet Mars has inspired so many beloved science fiction tales, from Wells’ alien invaders to the chronicles of Ray Bradbury and many more. Whether there was ever life on Mars is a matter for conjecture. In this story, the red planet might be the perfect location for a man on the wrong side of death.
Mayfly (Heather Lindsley) pursues the logic of its core idea with purpose and rigour, as all great science fiction does. The story is set on Earth but explores the consequences of a very different biological lifecycle. How would our priorities shift in such a world?
In The Smart Minefield, (Chris Butler) a bomb disposal team on the distant world of Minoru need to clear a path through a minefield. They have little time but all the latest technology on their side. What could possibly go wrong?
By Starlight (Rebecca J. Payne) fittingly takes us to the skies. Let us fill our sails with light, steer away from the life that is expected of us, and pursue instead a perilous course…
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Review by GARETH D JONES on SFCROWSNEST here.
Reviews of this awesome anthology can also be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Goodreads.