Review: Conspiracy ed. by Judith K. Dial and Thomas A. Easton

Why is it so difficult to find good short stories by noted authors? It’s even more rare to stumble across a collection of original short stories from a number of noted authors. It shouldn’t be that hard! There must be a conspiracy!

Oh wait.

Conspiracy – An Anthology of Original Science Fiction Stories is a new book edited by Judith K. Dial and Thomas A. Easton from NESFA Press, the publishing extension of the New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA). Introduced through a presentation of excerpts read by the editors, fans at the Boskone Science Fiction Convention in New England were treated to some of the most thought provoking conspiracy works available.

cover art by Bob Eggleton
cover art by Bob Eggleton

What is a conspiracy? If anything, it’s simply an idea that sounds plausible, can be backed up by reasonable amount of conjecture, and has a trusting audience with just enough compassion for the subject to want it to be true. It is a speculative theory at its purest. And what better forum to present these ideas than through the fandom of science fiction. After all, isn’t the “what-if” element a core part of fandom’s intrigue?

Perhaps the best definition of a conspiracy is presented by editor Judith K. Dial with the simple word, “truthy.” My interpretation of this is, something does not have to be a proven fact to be real, it just needs to “sound” real. It needs to sound – well, truthy.

There are twelve stories in this collection that will have you rethinking what you know and doubting what you think you know. Some are funny, some are outlandish, some are diabolical and some will leave you questioning what is real and what is truthy.

What can you expect?

“Ashlines” by David L. Clements – This is an examination of interrogations where technique sometimes overshadows the means.

“Postcards from Lemuria” by Jeff Hecht – A story that looks at the infiltration of internet trolls and the roles they play on manipulating the world. It is also refreshing to see Hecht’s reference to the controversial “Richard Sharpe” Shaver Mystery accounts published in Amazing Stories by editor Ray Palmer back in the mid-forties.

“Heavy Weather” by Rev DiCerto – The insinuation that cellular signals may have an effect on weather patterns is quite intriguing. What if man could control the weather?

“A Dog in the Weather” by Sarah Smith – The impact of global warning witnessed through the eyes of man’s best friend and how some backwoods beliefs may not be as backward as we think.

“Antikhthon” by Paul Di Filippo – Mortality and morality are not always synonymous, but sometimes they just go hand in hand. The belief that life other than humanity can be close by, in our own solar system or just on the outskirts, and the powers that control this knowledge can be scarier than science fiction.

“QM” by Allen Steele – What exactly is QM? Quality management? Superiority control? What if everything we know is and has always been under the control of a secret organization, and the word faith has a whole new meaning. This personifies conspiracy thinking and is a nice addition to the anthology.

“The Mermaid Club” by Cat Rambo and Mike Resnick – This story takes a dark look at a worldwide feminist conspiracy and the selective process for the male gender.

“The Greatest SETI Cover-Up of 1947” by H. Paul Shuch – Probably the most difficult task following a discovery is providing proof, and disproving oneself before others have the chance can be just as frustrating. But the ever elusive search for extraterrestrial intelligent life often brings more mystery than proof and the lack of governmental disclosure surrounding that fateful night just outside Roswell can play wonders with the imagination.

“A Right Jolly Old” by James L. Cambias – This story takes one of the oldest family secrets and brings it to reality by adding elements from some of the oldest classics of science fiction and horror.

“Geronimo’s Skull” by Shariann Lewitt – Readers are taken on a bizarre journey behind the scenes of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the horrific twist of who or what influenced President Kennedy’s security advisor McGeorge Bundy.

“One Night in Bavaria” by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald – This is a complex story that ties the Bavarian Illuminati to the sordid tales that surrounded the controversial Ludwig II and makes one wonder just what other influences lay hidden throughout history.

“Every Little Bit” by Steven Popkes – What if there is a conspiracy about the evolution and perpetuation of conspiracies? What if the people pulling this very conspiracy anthology together are all part of a larger conspiracy with the intention of manipulating propaganda? A conspiracy of conspiracies is the perfect way to end this collection.

To define a conspiracy, one merely has to examine history, the evolution of mass media, and the role propaganda has played on society in general. Or, one can just pick up a copy of Conspiracy – An Anthology of Original Science Fiction Stories and enjoy it for what it truly is – a fine collection of truthy literature.

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