” This can’t be good,” Old Foss said.
The Old Man blinked and without taking his eyes from the Jumblies said, “Why can I only sometimes understand you? Sometimes you are just a cat and other times a voice, a friend. Why is that, Old Foss?”
“I am always your friend,” Old Foss said, “only you are sometimes deaf. I don’t know why.”
–from Old Foss is the Name of his Cat, by David Sandner, collected in Clockwork Phoenix 1 by Mike Allen
You’ve seen this photo before. It was the first Darkcargo “avatar” thing-bob. But what’s that book in the background? Mr. Pockets has been modelling the Clockwork Phoenix 1 anthology for about three years now. Editor Mike Allen has published an electronic version, releasing this weekend.
The stories are…fantasy, yeah, but they’re not High Fantasy or Swords and Sorcery. They’re lyrical, prose-like, delve into corners of speculative fiction normally left dusty by the well-trodden highway of Fantasy. These are stories that lurk behind the trees waiting to ambush the weary pilgrim on that well-beaten path.
The first time I read Clockwork Phoenix I had to put it down a lot. Many of the stories are disturbing, opening that endless vein of human sadness. But these stories have their reverse image too, tapping into that endless artery of hope and joy.
My favorite from the collection is “The Moon-Keeper’s Friend” by Joanna Galbraith, because it speaks to my sense of wonder and delight, its pun on the word moon being the almond sugar on that little pastry of a story.
I loved Root and Vein by Erin Hoffman, a different and sadly hopeful story …and here I have trouble, and the trouble is the same for all these stories. This story is ABOUT a dryad, but it’s ABOUT hope and regrowth and the capacity to carry on past despair.
The Tailor of Time by Deborah Biancotti–> sewing, fabric, clockworks, and being nice to someone else at your own expense. Yup. My Kinda Story.
And I hate Old Foss is the Name of his Cat by David Sandner. I cry just trying to write about it. Loneliness and old age are my personal horrors, and oh! how our hearts break for the sufferings of our loved ones.
We’re discussing self-challenges a lot this weekend with NaNo and book challenges. I’m hoping you’ll pick up the e-version of this book and challenge yourself to explore the less-maintained paths with what has sometimes been labeled as “weird speculative fiction”. It will probably take you a while to read. There were two stories that went over my head, but every one of the other 16 made me sit back on my heels and re-arrange my schematic of the capacity of another human’s imagination. If nothing else, get it for Mike Allen’s Introduction, which is hands down the most lyrical and engaging string of words ever put before me.
Mike Allen is the long-time editor of Mythic Delirium, a speculative poetry magazine with multiple award winning poems to its credit. His Hugo-nominated short fiction is truly “dark and twisty” and I always have to put on my “Big Girl Panties” and muster enough courage to read it–during the day. He’s been featured on the Star Ship Sofa, and has been asked to be a regular part of that crew. And, as he’s located in Roanoke, I get to check the “local” category box.