by Mark Dalligan
is definitely a case of being able to tell a good book by its cover.
Rachel Goodyear has depicted a young woman blowing soap bubbles that
are like cigarette burns through reality. What an inspired match to
Robert Shearmanís first collection of short stories.
There are fourteen tales to savour. Each has a deceptively
understandable beginning, so the reader is wholly unprepared for
wormholes of plot, situation and character that echo a deep, alien
personal favourites are: Mortal
Coil (first published 2007 in Phobic: Modern Horror
Stories) which has the original premise that a higher power reveals the
form and date of their death to every individual on Earth, with the
exception of the narrator. He is the only one with an unwritten future.
In despair, he watches his wife leave him, his familiar world change,
then strangers begin to ask him to perform a very special
Damned if You Donít
can be read as very English story about the cost of loyalty. It seems
to be inspired by some older American SF that used human-animal-alien
relationships as the canvas on which a larger story was written. In
some ways it is like Harlan Ellisonís A Boy and His Dog.
In that work, a boy survives in a post-nuclear holocaust world with the
help of his genetically-enhanced anthropomorphic dog, that helps him
find food and women, and which is instrumental in leading him to a
significant choice. In Shearmanís world his hero, Martin, is imprisoned
in Hell. He finds the place to be "like the holiday village I once
stayed at in Lanzarote". Befriending Hitlerís dog Woofie, Martin starts
to change. Their unscheduled return to Earth is quite
Static is a clever
examination of relationships, death, lost opportunities and technology.
A widowerís television starts to bleed on the carpet. What has caused
this? Can it be repaired or must it go to the scrapheap? Quite bleak,
with an ending that is either very positive or very depressing,
depending whether you view the glass as half empty or half
a young woman, apparently quite plain, canít believe her luck in
wedding a husband who now "wasnít going to get away". Pregnancy quickly
follows the ceremony but the baby is not at all the expected little
bundle of joy, rather, a very large piece of antique furniture. She
continues rapid breeding and soon finds her "children" being sold to
fund an improved lifestyle. How does she come to terms with
despite being the title piece, at first seemed to let down the high
standard Shearman achieved in this collection. I thought for a long
while as to why this should be and finally decided it was an inability
to identify with the protagonist. Very few works of fiction depict
Jesus Christ as anything other than completely holy. I certainly know
no others that use cross-gender reincarnation as one of the means by
which he gained compassion.
Rereading this work however brings its rewards, so persevere.
Dalligan's short fiction has appeared in a number of publications
including Static Movement, MicroHorror, Bewildering Stories, Boston
Literary Magazine, Ranfurly Review, Twisted Tongue and Every Day
Publisher: Comma Press
Awards: Winner, 2008 World Fantasy Award for short story collection; shortlisted
for the 2008 Edge Hill Short Story Prize; longlisted for the 2008 Frank
O'Connor International Short Story Prize .
bio: Still under 40yrs old Robert
Shearman, playwright and screenwriter, has
rung up an impressive level of achievements including a play produced
by Francis Ford Coppola, winning the Sunday Times Playwright Award and,
one for SF fans, bringing back the Daleks in Dr Who. Tiny Deaths is his
with Robert Shearman
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Publisher's Website: Comma Press
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Robert Shearman "Love Songs for the Sly and Cynical" [due out 2009]
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