Figure 1 – Shapers of Worlds IV cover

I apologize—it’s been a whole month since my last column; February was a very busy month for me. I hope March will shape up to be better so I can bring you more columns that might be interesting. This month will see the birthday of The Beautiful & Talented Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk, maker of bots (click link for Fbook page). We’re going to see our first live play since we saw C J Jackman Zigante in Beehive, a terrific ‘60s girl group tribute. We’ll be at the First Impressions Theatre for Noises Off, which was terrific on screen with Christopher Reeve, Michael Caine and Carol Burnett, among others.

So, in spite of my stupid right eye, I have received a couple of review books, one of which I am reviewing now. (That’s the “full disclosure”: it was free. But that doesn’t affect my review which, as always, is my personal feeling about whatever I’m reviewing, free of affect or influence.)

Figure 2 – Edward Willett

Edward Willett, a Canadian author who has had a personal podcast interviewing SF/F authors since—I believe—2019, decided to publish the willing authors in an anthology, and this is the fourth such. Ed is, himself, a published genre writer—I previously reviewed one of his books—and therefore knows how to interview “our” writers. I hadn’t previously read any of these anthologies, but based on this one, I’d say he’s pretty good at selecting stories, too.

I won’t comment on every story—there are 19 of them (why not 20? Enquiring minds—and my OCD—want to know) here; and according to the TOC, this is the first illustrated volume, illustrated by Wendi Nordell. (The cover, however—Figure 1—is by Tithi Luadthong.) The book includes such writers of SF, Fantasy and “just genre” as Lavie Tidhar, Edward M. Lerner, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jean-Louis Trudel, James Van Pelt and, obviously, fourteen more (including the editor’s own short story). There is no central theme except that Ed has interviewed each author in his Worldshapers podcast. Most of these stories are new.

The contents are:
Matter of Life and Death, by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Advent, by James Kennedy
Yiwu, by Lavie Tidhar
Presumed Alien, by David Boop
Soldier of Fortune, by Edward M. Lerner
Done With Mirrors, by Sarah A. Hoyt
The End of the Sagittarius Arc, by Jean-Louis Trudel
The Doting Duke and His Gravely Disturbed
Daughters: The Books of the Bard, Scroll One, by Roy M. Griffis
There’s Some Thing Under the Bed, by Garon Whited
I Really Need to Clear My Inbox, by Noah Lemelson
BWDOC, by James Van Pelt
Monster in the Second Reel, by Richard Paolinelli
Souvenirs, by Gail Z. Martin
Nineteenth-Century Vase, by David Liss
Garbage, by Joshua Palmatier
The Sound of the Chain, by R.S. Mellette
The Canceller, by Edward Willett
A Murder of Scarecrows, by Mark Leslie
The Things Fenton Found, by Michaelbrent Collings

A story I really liked, though I’m hard-pressed to say whether it’s SF or fantasy—it seems to have elements of both—is Lavie Tidhar’s “Yiwu.” It’s a futuristic story not set in North America (though it is on Earth) and contains enough background material for several stories. The protagonist, Esham, is a person to which things happen; he is more an instrument than anything else. Does the story have an end? I dunno, and frankly, I don’t think it matters. “Done With Mirrors,” by Sarah A. Hoyt, is interesting, in that it reminds me of some of the SF from the 1950s. Travel by mirror is an interesting concept; and it’s pretty well written. “Presumed Alien,” by David Boop is about alien abduction. I’m tempted to say something else, but that would give it away. It’s reasonably humourous, though.

It’s nearly impossible to describe Jean-Louis Trudel’s story, “The End of the Sagittarius Arc.” Entities that maybe once were human millennia ago on a sentient ship fleeing robotic infections find sentience inside stars, ending in the resumption of an age-old love affair? That’s such a wimpy description, however accurate or inaccurate, but it kinda gives the flavour. Maybe Olaf Stapledon would understand it.

I really liked this anthology, and I wish I could spend the time to tell you about every story. There isn’t one I dislike, though there are a few that aren’t quite up to the ones I’ve mentioned here—and those aren’t the only good stories in the book. For example, there’s the medieval one (“The Doting Duke…” by Roy M. Griffis, about a traveling troupe and a haunted castle, and a haunted graveyard); there’s “There’s Some Thing Under the Bed,” by Garon Whited, which is told from the Thing’s POV. There’s “BWDOC,” by James Van Pelt, about supernatural goings-on, on campus. Sherrilyn Kenyon tells us about someone a writer loves or hates (is there a middle ground?)—an editor, who’s having problems with a recently-deceased writer; Edward Willett’s own story, “The Canceller,”  is about an AI-dominated future where everyone on Earth lives in a bubble with like-minded people. An entirely different type of AI apocalypse designed by humans has split humans into thousands of enclaves called “bubbles.” Should our lives be dominated and controlled by AI? Ed might have an answer. These are only about half the stories. There’s enough good reading here for everyone, I think. Shapers of Worlds Volume IV is available from (and probably, but I didn’t check that); price shown is $29.95 (CDN).

I believe I’ll have to obtain the previous three volumes!

Comments? Anyone? If you wish, you can comment here or on Facebook, or even by email (stevefah at hotmail dot com). You don’t have to like what I wrote, but be polite, please. My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owner, editor, publisher or other columnists. See you next time!


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