Simon Bisson (sbisson) wrote,
Simon Bisson

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A Sunday Lunchtime "Cat Hoovering" Review: "From The End Of The Twentieth Century"

John M. Ford's The Twentieth Century isn't the period. It's the train. And trains are a theme that returns again and again in this collection of short stories, essays and poems by one of my favourite genre authors.

Published by NESFA to coincide with Ford's role as the 1997 Boskone Guest Of Honor, From The End Of The Twentieth Century is a guided tour into the mind of one of SF's most versatile writers. In here you'll find two of the Alterneties Inc Stories, including the wonderful "Mandalay", fantasies about rail car hopping, an unpublished Liavek story about the first steam trains and the power of unbelief in a world where gods are real. You'll dive into poetry (formal and free), time travel, and essays on the best way to build railways on the moon (as an adjunct to his lunar coming of age story Growing Up Weightless). You'll even root out helpful little outline scenarios for role playing games...

This is a wonderful little volume, full of drama and power, condensed into the potted miracle that is a well crafted piece of short fiction. Some of the poems (especially "Troy: The Movie") read like condensed novels. But the highlight is a novella, "Walkaway Clause", a crafted peice of space opera that is at heart a bittersweet and tragic love story, enflamed by loss and hope, that ends in sadness and joy. It's a wonderful piece of fiction, and an example of the power of Ford's writing. Loss and return are themes that Ford returns to again and again in these stories: a playtime pilot plying the multiverse finds himself trapped in someone elses story; a dragon watches as the rise of science points the way to its coming doom. There is magic in Ford's words, a magic you will keep with you long after you close the last page.

Getting more Ford in print, especially at these lengths (and with his witty and erudite verse, too) is another triumph of the small presses...

Go hunt this one down. It may be a little tricky as NESFA's print runs are generally one run only and are usually individually numbered.
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