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28 November 2012

Anthologies can be very useful as samplers. I read a number for this reason and in the past stories from theme anthologies have put me onto writers I might otherwise have missed. But editing an anthology is an art. I read an anthology and mark the stories three ways as Category One, for this story alone I would have bought the anthology. Category two, a solid readable story. And category three, what was the editor thinking? Or occasionally, while I found none of the first category in the anthology, all of the stories were in category two, in a progression that lead you eagerly on until you finished reading, and I did so with a satisfied sigh. In which case it too is going to join the ‘permanent shelves’. Over many many years and even more anthologies I’ve found that the average of Category One stories tends to run about 3-5 per volume. Thus when I originally picked up this anthology and read it I was startled to discover that out of the fourteen stories, I’d listed seven as Category One. Even better, when I re-read it last week (I’m having a binge of re-reading the editor’s work, having just read (loved madly) and reviewed her latest) I added another story to that for a final result of 8 Category One stories out of the 14. I should point out that this is entirely my opinion. However, in the past, I’ve had friends read the same anthologies, and while the stories they categorize aren’t the same as my Category One’s necessarily, the number of stories that they rate as C1, are about the same. In other words. If I rate the anthology as having five C1 stories, they are likely to agree even if they aren’t the same stories.

Space Inc. is a clever themed idea. It has stories about people in a number of different trades, and that’s the angle. What sort of employment will there be out in space, what are the advantages to those particular jobs, what are the downsides, and how will some of those people who find the disadvantages, cope with them? Some of the professions written about are the sort of thing that is obvious. We’re still going to need medical staff out there, mechanics, general labourers, minsters, librarians, demolitions experts, and food technicians. But a ballet teacher? And I’d never thought about a professional bartender as someone a space station could need desperately. And riggers, I thought they’d gone out with sailing ships. Chaperones? Why would you need those? But the story made it clear why they could be required. As did the story about an assistant editor. But a Pullman porter? Why… and the story made that believably clear too. This anthology was an expert mix, it contained eight authors with whose work I was very familiar, (a match for the 8 C1 stories although only six of those were written by the familiar authors.) None of the stories were C3, and while I didn’t like a couple, that was personal, and not failings in quality. Choosing stories for a theme anthology is an art, and in my experience editors either have it or they don’t. Julie Czerneda has it and my very strong suggestion is that if DAW can persuade her to edit a few more theme anthologies for them between writing terrific books, they’ll be having their cake and eating it too. As for fellow readers out there, look up the theme anthologies she’s edited and buy when and as you can. They should be worth the money because this one certainly was.


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