CLOCKWORK PHOENIX: Tales of Beauty and Strangeness
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Read an interview with CLOCKWORK PHOENIX editor Mike Allen at SF Scope.
Praise for CLOCKWORK PHOENIX . . . .
Selected for the Locus Magazine 2008 Recommended Reading List
Author and editor Allen (Mythic) has compiled a neatly packaged set of short stories that flow cleverly and seamlessly from one inspiration to another. In “The City of Blind Delight” by Catherynne M. Valente, a man inadvertently ends up on a train that takes him to an inescapable city of extraordinary wonders. In “All the Little Gods We Are,” Hugo winner John Grant takes a mind trip to possible parallel universes. Modern topics make an appearance among the whimsy and strangeness: Ekaterina Sedia delves into the misunderstandings that occur between cultures and languages in “There Is a Monster Under Helen’s Bed,” while Tanith Lee gleefully skewers gender politics with “The Woman,” giving the reader a glimpse of what might happen if there was only one fertile woman left in a world of men. Lush descriptions and exotic imagery startle, engross, chill and electrify the reader, and all 19 stories have a strong and delicious taste of weird.
A very strong first volume … Established writers and new names all are in good form here … A series of great promise. Prospects on the anthology front look ever better.
I would have bought this book for its mysteriously gorgeous cover art alone, but the stellar lineup of contributing writers sold me completely … CLOCKWORK PHOENIX editor Mike Allen describes the anthology as “a home for stories that sidestep expectations in beautiful and unsettling ways, that surprise with their settings and startle with the ways they cross genre boundaries, that aren’t afraid to experiment with storytelling techniques.” His choices here don’t disappoint.
Even if you’re not into the genre, this is a welcome read that’ll hopefully strike an emotional chord in you.
Another “new weird” collection, perhaps? A slipstream opus? Whatever — set somewhere between fantasy, SF, and something else, the stories selected by editor Mike Allen have an unique property: they are never tedious … I highly recommend the book to anyone looking for top-notch fiction irrespective of genre labels.
. . . And more praise for CLOCKWORK PHOENIX authors . . .
“Catherynne M. Valente makes good on her reputation for hallucinatory hothouse prose … Valente packs a happy magical wonder into every detail, creating a story very similar to a good dream full of places and people who are half real, half symbol. ‘Blind Delight’s cyclical meditation on desire exemplifies the collection’s alchemical themes.” (The Fix)
Selected for Tails of Wonder and Imagination
“Another story from CLOCKWORK PHOENIX that stayed in my mind for days after I read it was David Sandner’s ‘Old Foss is the Name of His Cat.’ With quirky language tinged with myth, it takes you along a lovesick man’s last days as seen through the eyes of his preternatural feline companion.” (PhillyBurbs.com)
“A rich meditation on the vagaries of romance. The protagonist met a girl at school he was convinced was his other half; and two possible lives unfold for him, one in which he remains inseparable from this heaven sent partner, the other in which he is single, lonely, unfulfilled. One day he makes a phone call, and lines cross between existences, selves are in impossible communication. This prompts deep reflection, a trawling of memory, an inner dispute over how one’s will relates to reality, how we make our fates.” (Locus)
“A powerful, tragic, magic tale in which a man named John makes a fateful phone call one day, and reaches himself. The bizarre call stirs up memories of John’s past, bringing back a time when he and his best friend Justine were inseparable. But what happened to tear them apart? How close was their relationship, and how did it end… or did it? Whatever you think the truth is, it’s weirder. One of the most emotionally-powerful stories in the collection, it really needs multiple readings to understand its depths.” (SF Site)
“Light and playful, Rambo’s story departs from the dreamlike magic of earlier entries, creating a nifty little world that you believe you just might see around the corner in the next patisserie.” (The Fix)
“This is a clever, entertaining story that reminds me of classic Charles de Lint.” (SF Site)
“Thanks to Bobet’s accomplished pen, Bell, Book, and Candle work not only as strikingly original personifications, but also as sympathetic and frail human beings searching for peace. With flashes of sensual brilliance, ‘Bell, Book, and Candle’ equals ‘The City of Blind Delight’ in innovation and … well, in delight. (The Fix)
“A brutally absorbing depiction of the anthropomorphic personifications of the title instruments. What would you imagine their lives to be like, if these key instruments of excommunication were flesh and blood? I’m terribly fond of stories that humanize archetypes well, and this story succeeds painfully and delightfully.” (Green Man Review)
“Molly the bike messenger pulls up in a desert town where an angel is being raised atop a church. Daniel, a dissident with a sandwich board, wishes to convince the churchgoers that their statue is a blasphemy of angelic and holy powers … burning with gritty descriptions of the desert and a promising storyline about a girl on the run.” (The Fix)
“Never stops, never slows down as it tells the story of Molly, a bike-riding traveler who stumbles across a bizarre ceremony involving an angel and a sort-of prophet. Kinetic and fluid, this story addresses issues of faith, belief, and one’s inner nature.” (SF Site)
Selected for the Locus Magazine
“Barron’s contribution is all about mood: the wild energy of late nights when time seems suspended and everything seems possible and that horrible, creeping dread when you can’t quite figure what’s wrong. He ratchets both of these sentiments up for full effect.” (The Fix)
“The atmosphere in this story of a couple creeping themselves out over the nothing in the dark that might actually just be something in the dark is so skillfully handled that it actually resulted in me being creeped out. In a nicely lit room.” (Green Man Review)
“Always a consummate prose stylist, Sedia uses equally lush phrases to describe the world that Helen has left behind and the monstrous world that she fears. This is another story that successfully walks the narrow border between dream and metaphor.” (The Fix)
“[Allen’s] choices here don’t disappoint. Take Australian writer Cat Sparks’ ‘Palisade,’ for example. This beautiful and unsettling tale of a sad girl living with her father in an opulent compound protected from the carnivorous insects and other horrors that live outside by an electrified fence is part science fiction, part romance and, ultimately, horror.” (PhillyBurbs.com)
Selected for the Locus Magazine
“A moving, tragic hymn to a dying world. Allusions to homosexuality, and unwanted sons, and a curiously ugly paragon of femininity build to a dark revelation against which there is no appeal; grim storytelling this, Lee at her barbaric best.” (Locus)
“Shapeshifting Neniza sneaks into the royal palace, hoping to save her father and herself … Marie Brennan uses Aztec mythology to place the characters of ‘A Mask of Flesh’ in a world where gods and other supernaturals interfere in human life, propitiated only by the proper sacrifices.” (The Fix)
“A tight, fascinating, and gloriously straightforward revenge tale.” (Green Man Review)
“A series of sequential vignettes in the life of a man whose days, for good or ill, are ruled by a forbidding mountain. Combining poetic levels of description with an enveloping sense of place, Crow captures a mysterious, slightly menacing mood.” (The Fix)
Selected for Year’s Best SF 14
“An opulent space opera, full of exotic color and historical resonance, about a quest for revenge upon an evil warlord paralleling a figure in Hindu myth. Should the pattern of myth be followed for justice to be done? And what in truth are the mythical referents? The answers are literate and compelling.” (Locus)
“Just incredibly amazing … Old myths inform new lives in this crazy and compelling narrative, and Singh’s visual storytelling means I can easily imagine this story as a breathtaking graphic novel.” (Green Man Review)
“A characteristically magniloquent discussion of courage and how an heroic destiny is fashioned — should a great leader, seemingly facing defeat by an overwhelming invader, stand and fight, or should he step aside, into an ideal Valhalla? Wright’s answer is a bit predictable, but the atmosphere is grand.” (Locus)
“Cleverly reworking an aspect of Norse myth, this story hints at a much larger world, and events playing out both before and after the scene in question. It’s a simple concept, but stunning nonetheless in the execution.” (SF Site)
“‘Akhila, Divided’ has an unusual protagonist: a sentient bomb that can take on a humanoid form. When the bomb crash-lands among human beings and befriends a peaceful monk, Vegar, her attachment toward the people directly conflicts with the murderous purpose she was designed for. MacCath’s blazing prose illuminates all characters sympathetically and crystallizes arguments for and against war in one achingly divided heroine. Brutal and electrifying execution make this old story of internal conflict new and wrenching.” (The Fix)
“Mixing themes of religion, faith, redemption, revenge and sacrifice, this is a thought-provoking tale that tackles some complex subjects to admirable results.” (SF Site)
“Mohammed Muneer, protagonist of ‘The Moon-Keeper’s Friend,’ owns a tea shop with no customers except for half-addled people who are chasing after the moon … With the dry and gentle attitude of a nursery rhyme, Joanna Galbraith makes an affecting entry in the tradition of the wise fool.” (The Fix)
Shortlisted for the 2008 Aurealis Award
“Avery, whose daughter is dying, seeks more time for her from the Tailor. When he grants this desire, the Tailor affects the world all the way down to a dying girl and all the way up to the Engineer of all … Deborah Biancotti spins out her conceit with a light and fluid intelligence.” (The Fix)
“Deborah Biancotti explores the true nature of the universe in ‘The Tailor of Time,’ where that selfsame individual, responsible for sewing together bits and pieces of time to create the ever-changing days and nights, is visited by a man who asks for a small, simple favor. Sadly, this favor, for all that it’s proposed in the best of intentions, is near-impossible to grant, but the Tailor, just this once, will try. What happens then is a mystery, one not even the great Engineer who designed the progress of time itself, can explain. Beautifully told, it’s filled with rich imagery and interesting concepts.” (SF Site)
“A classic quest, simply told with grace notes of description of the natural world — a sweet, sweet love story with a clever equation between one’s heart and the next generation.” (The Fix)
“A story about which I can say almost nothing without my hands waving about in awe and delight. This fable of a dryad and her heart is perfect, beautiful, and glorious.” (Green Man Review)