October 19th, 2010

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E-Book Sampler Review

OTHER SIDE: 12 Webfiction Tales
Ergofiction Magazine E-Book (October 2010)

This e-book bills itself as a webfiction sampler. The idea is that the vignettes and stories presented here may lead you to follow the link embedded at the end of each piece out to the larger work/community of the twelve authors featured. I have to admit that, at first, I didn’t understand this basic premise, as the introduction by Jan Oda, the book’s publisher and Ergofiction Magazine’s editor-in-chief, doesn’t entirely make that clear. Or, perhaps, I’m too old and too mired in my own traditional print world biases, because Oda begins the introduction with one of my big bug-a-boos about how there’s this digital revolution underway and the mighty traditional presses may fall in its wake, yada, yada, so I was probably grumbling to myself and not really paying attention.

Once I grasped that rather critical design concept, however, I found a lot to enjoy in this sampler. The collection is pretty evenly divided between science fiction and fantasy, with one horror story, “Junk Drawer” by M. Jones.

My two absolute favorites were a science fiction story, “Dalston Junction” by Meilin Miranda, and an urban fantasy, “Mittlin County Coke Blues” by Isa K.

Miranda’s story follows two women living in London in the early 19th century who are up to something seemingly sinister with unwanted babies. It takes a while in “Dalston Junction” for the speculative fiction aspect to reveal itself -- though when it does, it’s a doozy. The ending, though clearly not “THE” end, was satisfying enough for this to feel mostly complete.

K.’s “Mittlin County Coke Blues” is a unique take on a Pennsylvanian Mennonite youth going through rumspringa. I felt the lack of a complete story more keenly with this one, as I found myself easily identifying with Jake and wanting to know what happened with both his relationship with his buddy Danny and with his mysterious, shunned grandma.

Unfortunately, it’s not clear when you follow the links at the end of either, whether or not you can continue following these specific stories. In fact, it seems you may need to register at Miranda’s site to read *any* of her other fiction.

I also enjoyed the laugh-out-loud space opera/adventure story “The Little Problem” by MCM that involved drug smuggling and… garden gnomes. T.L. Whiteman’s “The Spaces in Between” was also a fun little jaunt into demon hunting through the streets of Paris. Other stand outs included “New Stories” by M.C.A Hogarth, which had very complex, gender changing aliens that reminded me positively of Eleanor Arnason’s Hwarhath. Both G.L. Drummond and Nancy Brauer took on the problems of being psychic in a hostile, mundane world to good effect.

Unfortunately, I found much of the rest of the collection suffered from being partials of much larger, on-going or community stories. For instance, from the first line, “Poaching” by Lyn Thorne-Alder and Chris Childs came off as very fannish. In the others, I simply felt that I was missing some critical bit of world-building or characterization that likely came with reading the webfiction from its beginning, rather than jumping in and jumping out, sampler-style.

If you’re actively searching for online community fiction, this book would serve as advertised. If not, it’s still an interesting read to expose you to what sorts of stories you can find on the web.