I seem to be going through a phase of reading anthologies at the moment, mainly due to OneMonkey’s borrowings from the library. Given that I’m usually reading on the train, either when I’ve recently woken up (assuming I have actually woken up and not just dressed and found my way to the station on autopilot) or after a long/tedious/difficult/tiring day at work (some of my work-days are full of fun and biscuits, don’t get me wrong) I’m being quite ruthless about moving on to the next story if I’m not fully gripped.
The latest was The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, Volume 3, in which I quite enjoyed Rescue Mission by Jack Skillingstead; The Fixation by Alastair Reynolds (many-worlds, arrogant scientists and heedless destruction, in the context of a museum restoration project. Very impressed with this one); Providence by Paul Di Filippo (robots get high on vinyl records); One of our Bastards is Missing by Paul Cornell (just brilliant, and I’m sorry I didn’t read it before I went to ThoughtBubble last month, I’m sure he was there. Kind of steampunk I guess, centred on a royal bodyguard in England, folds in spacetime, a kidnapping and other related excitement); The Best Monkey by Daniel Abraham (interesting idea and nicely written. A journalist’s past comes back to call in the form of an ex-girlfriend at the centre of a story he’s investigating, about beauty, symmetry, how we perceive it and what happens if we can’t).
I feel guilty in a way for passing over these stories so quickly, but I know I won’t get round to writing anything longer at the moment (life presses in on all sides). It’s a good but frightening lesson in the short attention span of readers; a turn of phrase, a long-winded explanation, a character I take an instant dislike to, a setting I can’t fully picture – any or all of these make me skip forward to the next story, and so in theory the same elements in a story of mine would have the same effect on a reader. Except that most of these are subjective, or governed by mood, surroundings (physical, and neighbouring stories in the book), personality. In short, everyone’s experience of the same collection will be different, but I’ve found a few names to look out for in future contents lists.