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Witpunk
edited by Claude Lalumière and Marty Halpern
Four Walls Eight Windows, 344 pages

Witpunk
Claude Lalumière
Claude Lalumière is a columnist for Locus Online, Black Gate, and The Montreal Gazette. His short fiction has appeared in The Book of More Flesh, Interzone, and Fiction Inferno. In 2003, three anthologies he edited will appear. They are Island Dreams: Montreal Writers of the Fantastic (Véhicule Press), Open Space: New Canadian Fantastic Fiction (The Bakka Collection/Red Deer Press), and Witpunk (4 Walls 8 Windows).

ISFDB Bibliography

Marty Halpern
Marty Halpern is an editor at Golden Gryphon Press. He lives in San Jose, California.

ISFDB Bibliography
Four Walls Eight Windows

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

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Editors Claude Lalumière and Marty Halpern open this book by recalling a question that came up in an online forum in 2001: "When did reading SF stop being fun?" They object to the implication that SF is no longer fun to read, and Witpunk addresses one area of "fun": humourous SF, or more specifically, "sardonic" SF. The book assembles 26 stories, 15 reprints, one revision of an earlier story, and 10 brand new pieces. Are they all funny? Well, most of them. And, as a whole, the book is most certainly fun -- a very fine collection, with a number of good new stories and a number of quite good and not very well-known reprints.

Among the reprints, I was particularly impressed with Robert Silverberg's "Amanda and the Alien", in which a Valley girl-type encounters an escaped alien visitor that takes over people's bodies. William Sanders's "The Scuttling" is a wickedly funny story about a stupid couple who try to cheat an Indian exterminator. Nina Kiriki Hoffman's "Savage Breasts" is a very amusing piece about a woman whose breasts come to independent life. Cory Doctorow and Michael Skeet offer "I Love Paree", a novelette set in fairly near-future Paris, during a Civil War, in which the narrator gets "conscripted" to help the side that kidnaps him. And Jeffrey Ford is here with five separate short-shorts, each a very long sentence, each parodying a different pulp genre. (These last come from last year's definitely "fun" 'zine The Journal of Pulse-Pounding Narratives).

Best of the new stories is another short-short, an absolutely lovely story by Ray Vukcevich, "Jumping". This is a story that I don't quite see as "funny" or "sardonic", but quite moving and true, about a young man and a young girl, and her hold on him. Eugene Byrne's "Bagged and Tagged" is a revision of a 1995 Interzone story. The theme here is future penology. The narrator gets involved in a radical group, and after some vandalism finds himself "tagged". That is, he is assigned to work for the company whose property he harmed, and he's implanted with a chip such that he can't escape, and can be readily punished. He gets assigned to do yard work and such for a lowly middle manager. This manager is kind of a jerk, and the story resolves itself funnily enough in a biter bit fashion. Paul Di Filippo's "Science Fiction" is nicely done meta-fiction about a failing SF writer who seems to be losing his grip on reality. It's cleverly, and surprisingly effectively, told in sentence fragments. Leslie What's "Is That Hard Science, or Are You Just Happy to See Me" is uneven but quite interesting, about a woman who invents a sort of high-tech chastity belt, and the problems her daughter has dealing with it.

Witpunk effectively proves its case -- SF can still be fun, as in funny or "sardonic". The editors have made a nice selection of enjoyable reprints and interesting new stories. Humour is notoriously a matter of individual taste, and certainly some of these stories didn't really work for me (and several went on too long after setting up a decent enough joke), but enough of the stories hit the mark to make it worth your while.

Copyright © 2003 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at http://www.sff.net/people/richard.horton.


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