I recently finished a new collection of short stories from various authors I have not read before.
Between the Wall and the Fire edited by Russell S. Newquist, who also provides three stories.
“Between the Wall and the Fire – A collection of superversive science fiction and fantasy stories celebrating family devotion, including the stories”
If you have not come across the term superversive before, it describes a literary movement with an informal mission statement.
The goal of the Superversive is to bring hope, where there is no hope; to bring courage, where without courage, hope would never be manifested.
The goal of the Superversive is to be light to a benighted world.
The goal of the Superversive is:
To tell the truth.
So no stories where Captain America is actually a Hydra agent all along.
Now this statement combined with a theme of family could provide some trepidation of syrupy message fiction. Hammering in the point that “Family is important” like the endless “Holiday” movies on the Hallmark channel.
That is totally not the case and the collection of stories within Between the Wall and the Fire are excellent stories on their own in the genre of SF and Urban Fantasy. I enjoyed all the stories, but some stood out against even a solid collection.
The collection starts out very strong with “Edge” by Russell S. Newquist. The story starts with some explanation of motorcycle physics and introduces the main character a P.I. You start to get the feeling of some SF noir and then the action ramps up, and ramps up again. The situation gonzo as you start to find out about the inhabitants of this world. I really enjoyed how this was layered and that for a short story a definite beginning/middle/end. Like most good short stories you are satisfied with it while at the same time wanting more. In this case I could not have thought of a better ending. Just perfect.
“On the Bayou’s Edge” by Morgon Newquist was another story that left me perfectly satisfied. A grandmother protecting her family from things in the swamp. Serious things in the swamp that you need protection from, but that most people are unaware of. The story escalates when Maw Maw runs into a creature more powerful than what she has run into before. I just loved this character and the writing was crisp enough so that you had a nuanced look at the character without much exposition. It developed with the story. It also reminded me of the best of the Harry Dresden elements.
“Brotherly Envy” by S.D. McPhail is sort of an extended parable regarding two brothers where one brother is being praised for the powers that came to him. I found this story very thoughtful regarding the traps of envy, especially when you both envy and have come to despise the other.
“Negev” by Joshua M. Young explores a group of colonists who have left Earth because of religious persecution and are trying to make it on their own on a new planet as their skill set is rapidly lost. They are then found by representatives of “posthumanity” which provides the collision of cultures in the story. As the colonists are Jewish you can see allusions to the problems the Jewish people experience in their exodus and what they can take and reject from cultures they collided with.
“Knight of the Changeling” by Rusell S. Newquist was another one I greatly enjoyed. What happens in the genre of urban fantasy when a changeling is discovered and you try to recover the switched-out child? First off I just loved how the changeling was detected. Mostly I enjoyed the dangers of fairy land and then how it was all resolved.
In the interest of being brief I will stop the story synopsis, but really could easily go on since I liked all the stories so much.
Still I have to give final mention to “Life Began at Thirty-Three” by Verne Luvall. This is actually not fiction, but a short biographical reflection on life by Morgan Newquist’s grandfather. I am glad they included this, since I was rather moved by it and it topped off the theme of family perfectly.