Short stories are the heart-and-soul of science fiction, a genre that began about one hundred years ago in cheap pulp magazines like Amazing Stories and Weird Tales. Short fiction allowed speculative writers to explore new ideas and concepts without getting bogged down in backstory or sub-plots (or, some critics would argue, character development). Despite their brevity, these stories were often filled with big concepts. Consider how Arthur C. Clarke’s tiny tale, “The Sentinel,” inspired Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Little stories pack big ideas. This tradition continues in THE BEGINNING & END OF ALL THINGS edited by Tessa Barron. While diverse in tone and technique, all the stories in this SF anthology pack a big punch while employing a modest word count. Alex Ganon’s “Just Another Wild Thing” pits a stranded space traveler against an AI humanoid designed to assist in his rescue…but the robot has a mind of its own. “The Park” by Edmond B. Belisle puts humans in an alien zoo, riffing on the old Twilight Zone plot. In Matthew Stuart Evans’ “Valhalla Interrupted,” a mythical Norse god looks behind a Matrix-like veil of alternative reality to recruit warriors for a war with space aliens. Talk about crossing genres!
In C.R. MacFarlane’s “The Legend Of Bucaris,” ninja assassin, Jasa, finds her lost love in the Golden City of Bucaris…and also find herself framed for murder. McFarlane’s satisfying SF romance contrasts tradition with technology. “Devil On Your Shoulder” by Adan Geesi puts readers in the pilot’s seat of a crashing pirate ship. Only one man in the surviving crew can bring the pilfered precious metals to their rendezvous point…but they all want the chance. “Repudium” by K.E. Barron is a compelling tale of teleportation, cloning, and selfishness on both the corporate and personal level. “Todd” by Turi T. Armstrong paints a vivid portrait of a modern savior who spreads hope in a post-apocalyptic Reno, Nevada overrun by starved zombie robots.
J.P. Withers’s “Dictator Dome” is a satirical look at a futuristic reality game show, while Alex Ganon’s “Adam” is a clever short about an A.I. programmed for revenge. Nick Nikolov keeps you guessing in “From Light,” the story of benevolent aliens warning humans of impending interstellar doom, told from the perspective of a resurrected messenger. “The Zero” by George Sandifer-Smith is an outstanding blend of SF horror. A team of soldiers and scientists search for survivors at a deep space religious colony and find an evil entity intent on keeping them there. Fans of the classic movie Alien will enjoy this inspired take on the “haunted house in outer space” theme.
While the stories vary in tone—from serious to silly—all are well written. These stories have the wonder and awe of classic SF, but are driven by relatable characters making realistic choices. The overall theme in THE BEGINNING & END OF ALL THINGS is a hopefulness about man’s place in a future filled with sentient machines.
While most anthologies, regardless of genre, are hit-and-miss, THE BEGINNING & END OF ALL THINGS is mostly hits–wondrous stories with relatable characters that explore the far reaches of space and the limits of technology.
~Rob Errera for IndieReader