By Mike Griffiths
Holt, Kay T.; Jennings, Kelly; Leib, Bart R., eds. Crossed Genres: Year Two. Crossed Genres (October 24, 2010). 138pp. USD $ 9.99. ISBN-13: 978-1453875414.
This book is the second installment in Crossed Genre‘s yearly “Best Of” anthologies. If you aren’t familiar with Crossed Genres, here is a quick summary: unlike many magazines that focus on certain genres and themes, this one has a different focus for each issue. Some of the themes are quite specific, like ‘Dreams and Nightmares’, where others are more open to interpretation, such as ‘Folklore’. Each issue contains only stories based on each given topic, but the next issue will end up being completely different. This book contains 12 short stories, one for each month and each genre.
The anthology opens with “Lunch Money” by Kelly Jennings. This is an inventive story that takes place on a distant asteroid, where the miners are treated little better than slaves. One man is an advocate for his people, while another supports the company they work for. An intricate dance between making a profit and simple human dignity ensues. Second up is “The Vanishing Sea” by Caleb Jordan Schulz. This was based on the novel concept of the level of the ocean mysteriously lowering. The small fishing village that is home to Samuel Lopez and his friends is going to be put out of business. How can a group of common fishermen and their families possibly hope to solve a problem this huge?
“The Seder Guest” by Barbara Krasnoff is a shorter tale about a woman dating a very unusual type of man. This is a fun story, but it left me wanting more. It was over just when it was starting to get interesting and I wanted to see what was going to happen next.
Fourth in the lineup is “Whirligig Fingers & Globular Thumbs” by Polenth Blake. This is a chaotic steampunk tale, which sets reality on its ear. The two main characters are fun, if a little confusing. The story might have little in the way of a real point, but is certain good for a laugh. “High School 3000” by Timothy Miller is next. This is an exciting, action-packed story that gives us a fast ride from start to finish. Miller takes the idea of school bullying up to the level of gladiatorial Rome, where freshmen literally have to fight to make it to their first homerooms, or die trying. When two teens decide to team up to make it through their first day, this alliance is still no assurance that they will survive an attack by the dreaded Chess Club.
“The Last Rickshaw”, by Stephanie Lai, is a believable, futuristic tale. The characters are personable and, even when confronted by issues in a different time stream, they come off as real folks with what, for them, are normal obstacles to overcome.This is followed by “Conflicts” by Tomothy T. Murphy, an entertaining short about an artificial guard cat. In an odd way, it is almost a tear-jerker, for the cat is so adamant about protecting the small child in her care that it really tugs on the heart strings of the reader. Definitely a strong story.
“Yelloween” by Sam Cash takes the reader into the world of Baylo, an interstellar ship captain. Baylo gets involved in a quest for a futuristic version of El Dorado, which entails risks that could make marching through the Amazon seem like child’s play.
“Centzon Totochin” by Cat Rambo was perhaps the best of the whole collection. I’ve been a fan of Cat Rambo since she was the featured author in Abandoned Towers issue five. She weaves a powerful tale with great depth and her writing craft is always a pleasure to enjoy. In this adventure, two drunken college chums find themselves exploring Mexico. Murders begin to take place and they find themselves involved in a mystery.
“Luck of the Harvest” by Tom Barlow is another story that sticks with the reader. Sammy is an Amish youth, who somehow gains the power of increased luck, but what if this good fortune was at the cost of another family suffering an equal amount of ill luck? Can Sammy live with himself? What sort of consequences might be in store for his family within such a religious community?
Ursula Wood brings us “The Mongrel Scholar”. The fairy folk are recognized and inhabit gaslight London. Although they are allowed to live with humans, they are not treated fairly by many. Al’s dreams take him back to the world of Fairie, but when humans try similar trances and injure his Sidhe friends, does Al have the strength to take a stand against them?
Lastly, we have “Flying with the Dead” by Sabrina Vourvoulias. Bob and his family are from Mexico and this is one of the reasons he makes such an excellent immigration official. Can Bob find it in his heart to turn his back on his people and his culture for his whole life, or will there be a breaking point where he has to make a choice between the two lives he has been living?
These are excellent and entertaining stories. All are well-written and could even be a guide for aspiring authors who are wondering what sort of stories could help get them published in contemporary speculative magazines. The folks at Crossed Genres tend to focus on powerful writing. Often, the mood takes over the story itself and is driven home by the prose. The only drawback I might see with this anthology is that, at times, the writing is almost too descriptive and florid, pulling the reader of out of the tale. However, if you like a finely-crafted series of tales, written by authors who can tell a powerful and meaningful story, this is an anthology that you should seriously consider grabbing for yourself.
Crossed Genres: Year Two is available from Amazon.com