Saturday, June 27, 2015

Warring on Worlds

The War of the Worlds: Global Dispatches: edited by Kevin J. Anderson (1996), comprising the following stories: 

The Roosevelt Dispatches by Mike Resnick; Canals in the Sand by Kevin J. Anderson; Foreign Devils by Walter Jon Williams; Blue Period by Daniel Marcus; The Martian Invasion Journals of Henry James by Robert Silverberg; The True Tale of the Final Battle of Umslopogaas the Zulu by Janet Berliner; Night of the Cooters by Howard Waldrop; Determinism and the Martian War, with Relativistic Corrections by Doug Beason; Soldier of the Queen  by Barbara Hambly; Mars: The Home Front by George Alec Effinger; A Letter from St. Louis by Allen Steele; Resurrection by Mark W. Tiedemann; Paris Conquers All by Gregory Benford and David Brin; To Mars and Providence by Don Webb; Roughing It During the Martian Invasion by Daniel Keys Moran and Jodi Moran; To See the World End by M. Shayne Bell; After a Lean Winter by Dave Wolverton; The Soul Selects Her Own Society: Invasion and Repulsion: A Chronological Reinterpretation of Two of Emily Dickinson's Poems: A Wellsian Perspective by Connie Willis.

About as enjoyable an homage-anthology as I can remember. The War of the Worlds: Global Dispatches gives us the adventures of a wide variety of historical figures during the great Martian invasion chronicled in the novel by H.G. Wells. We visit the invasion on many fronts and on many continents and in many countries, with a side-trip to Mars itself so that Edgar Rice Burroughs can report on what John Carter did to halt the invasion from the Martian end.

The shifts in tone and subject matter from story to story can be a bit jarring, as the stories run the gamut from meditative tragedy to a loopy satire of academia from Connie Willis. But that range is part of the volume's charm: you really don't know what's coming next. Maybe it's Tolstoy and Stalin teaming up to create a refugee camp in late-Tsar-era Russia. Maybe it's a bunch of rootin', tootin', shootin' Texas folk taking on the Martians. Maybe it's an H.P. Lovecraft pastiche pitting Boy Lovecraft against the Martian invaders of Providence like some moody, glum, but plucky Hardy Boy.

The writers tend to gravitate towards writers as protagonists, including Mark Twain, Henry James, Joseph Conrad, and H.G. Wells himself. Highly recommended, and I'd really like to see a full-length novel version of John Carter vs. The Martians by George Alec Effinger. 

The Mysterious West by Brad Williams and Choral Pepper (1967): Fun and surprisingly fact-based assortment of weird stories of the American (and, in a cameo, Canadian) West. The essays examine everything from Romans and Phoenicians in places where one wouldn't expect to find them to the odd adventures of various outlaws, miners, ghosts, and lost expeditions. A good time-filler, especially if one follows up on some of the stories to check their truthiness. Recommended

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