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Triangulation: Morning After
edited by Stephen V. Ramey
Parsec Ink, 222 pages

Triangulation: Morning After
Stephen V. Ramey
Stephen V. Ramey lives and writes in an 1870's Victorian home perched on the edge of New Castle's Historic District, the third largest such district in Pennsylvania. His short stories can be read in Strange Horizons, Triangulation: Taking Flight, A Fly in Amber, and Every Day Fiction among others.

Stephen V. Ramey Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Trent Walters

Triangulation: Morning After is an anthology loosely themed by the editor and interpreted by the authors. The title suggests this anthology focuses on apocalypses; however, most of these are fantasy stories.

About half of the stories would stand well -- if not stand out -- amid the contents of a professional magazine. If there's a standout among these, it might be the Odyssey-flavored, African fairy tale "Nyabinghi's Sacred Drum" by Susan Urbanek Linville although DeAnna Knippling's alien "The Third Portal" gives Linville's tough competition for that prize. The remainder has strengths as well.

H.M. McInnes opens the anthology with "How the Caterpillar Cheated Death," an indefinable story that's almost but not quite SF or fantasy. A couple is stranded in an unnamed city, under attack for it being a city of artists. While bombs rock the city and nearby buildings, the couple do not race around to save their lives but rather construct paper and wire cocoons for each other. The husband seals himself inside his and wakes up dead but his cocoon has an opening which bursts outward. The wife did not originally seal hers as she was supposed to (presumably she did not take it seriously). The style sometimes breathes a magical air. The difficulty, though, is that the scenes and ending feel underdeveloped although one could argue for an attempt at ambiguity. The outcome, however, does not stretch the reader, either way.

While exploring the ruins of the extinct Thula race in Erich William Bergmeier's "The Blue of Distance," an accident leaves Vadim's space suit compromised and Vadim stranded in his pod. Lev must rescue him and wait to be picked up by a Sweeper. When Lev can't reach Vadim, Vadim has go to Lev. But Vadim hallucinates Anna and their son. While the scenario is sound, the tale's power drains away. The relationships could be fortified, and it's not clear that the POV switch and background story were necessary. Still a fun story.

Since Melvin's child has died (in "Scar Tissue Wings" by Aaron Polson), Melvin has tried to kill himself by throwing himself off a building, hanging, starving and being eaten by zombies, but none work. Readying another noose at the lip of another bridge, he hears gunshots in downtown Kansas City and realizes he hasn't tried bullets. He even contemplates that maybe he'd want to live if he'd had someone to talk to. Then something happens that makes his last ditch effort to live, pointless. An ending that matches the sad, hopeless fate of the man at the end of Night of the Living Dead. It may be that zombie stories are the zombie apocalypse, but this one has an interesting twist that enlivens the subgenre.

Camille Alexa's "After the Piper" tells of a world emptied of all humans except those that can't yet talk well. The "Piper" of the title refers to the music that makes the adults dance off leaving all the very young children alone and angry enough to attempt to blow up a statue of an adult. What makes this story compelling is its telling (employing the voice of a child) more than story itself, but as it's short, that's good enough and worth the read.

In "Noctem Finem" by Henry Tjernlund, among the vigilantes out to let blood to restore the celestial bodies that a witch has extinguished, Jonathan is the only member who has misgivings. It turns out that the witch is innocent, but the sacrifices and a warlock perpetuate the curse on their vision. A group of men and the formerly accused witch go to liberate star light. This one is imaginatively inventive, a highlight of the anthology.

Living on a sky island, Toowa does not want to control winds like the adult males or his sister to grow up and marry in "A Late Wind" by Tami Harris. However, when his sister's life is peril, he is forced to change his mind. This one packs a lot of imagination although possibly unintended hints of incestuous desire may turn off some readers. Toowa seems to be on the cusp of adulthood, so his behavior seems out of place. Maybe this also is intended.

Thank goodness, "The Zombie Reader," by Bruce Memblatt is not a zombie story. There's a bit too much cookie-cutter feel to many of the stripe although you're free to read this differently. Jersey Summers reads zombie novels avidly and perhaps with a little too much conviction in their veracity that he shoots his neighbor coming over for a visit. Now he did drag his leg, but Jersey's wife tries to convince him to put away the gun. When she blows out the match he was going to use to light the fluid to make sure his zombie neighbor doesn't revive, Jersey suspects his wife.... A sad and moving tale demonstrating most people are done in by themselves more than zombies.

Playing with similar ideas to a different effect, Kylie Bullivant's "After-spin" treats the narrator's over-reaction in front of the girl he's trying to impress, so he "spins," which changes the world's grass to blue, but each time he tries to change something, it makes things worse. This one's reminiscent of Margo Lanagan's work (steeping the ordinary in weird), but it doesn't pull off as well. The frame story is a little loose and perhaps unnecessary. While I love odd connections, it's not quite there yet. Also, the ending doesn't resonate with the rest of the story. Still, maybe one day Bullivant will give Lanagan a run for her money.

"The Slap of the Plow" by Gordon A. Graves shows us men removing snow only to see a small female figure dash off into the deep snow. They climb out of their plow, only to never be seen from again. This had potential to frighten or provoke thought but straddles between the two. While the fear doesn't quite build, some readers might be curious about the thought. It deals with land, Native North Americans, and the changes over seventy years. However, this falls shy as the gears of the horror doesn't turn the thought (no one seems to be on target with what's happening, let alone being much concerned about the missing persons). Nonetheless, it remains an ambitious work.

In "When She Sleeps, Mountains Tremble" by Milo James Fowler, Lyra sends the preadolescent Dahlia off on an attack mission, but little else occurs. While the writing is not the best -- "It always struck her without warning in quiet moments as rare as sunshine on the earth's surface" -- if the author manages to control this and meaningful narrative, his narrative impulses seem primed to pen a bestseller.

"Orbium" by Kalisa Lessnau, a writer it seems likely you'll hear from again, presents Kirst, a created being, that senses something is not right in her master's household. Bent over her master crouches a man with a knife, plunging it into her master's abdomen. She suspects this new thing in the house, the man with the knife, is created like herself and needs to find his place in the master's house, so she escorts him from location to location. However, he seems less interested in finding his place than playing with the items he finds of interest.

Alex Gorman tells of a chance encounter with the physical manifestation of the Higgs Boson in "Colliding." He's been hiding out, making people fall in love at bars until Alice bumps into him.

The most bizarre or surreal of the group must be "The Beast" by Jacques Barbéri. When you think you've got a handle on the speculative universe, the author pulls the carpet out from under you. The story opens with "The room was plunged in darkness" and we're led on an itemized tour of the violent objects that Saliman Diarkos adorns his walls with before we're told the man is something of giant -- a big man? a mafia boss? a corporate kingpin? an alien? a fantastical giant? or an earthly god? some or none of these? -- making love to an ordinary woman who understandably is startled by a spider which has been watching them. When she flings it away, Diarkos is enraged and smacks her, rushes to the spider's side -- none of which makes sense from a normal human male perspective with our strong desire to protect someone we supposedly love. Then we reexamine the first sentence and realize -- since the love-making was ongoing -- that the plunging darkness was more figurative than literal. And that's just the opening scene.

Barbéri follows this with a madcap roadtrip -- two humans (Carlo and Frank) are to ferry the beast (but is the beast the spider -- sometimes referred to as the beast--or something else? Because Frank tells Carlo that it's a salamander they're carrying, which spat at him giving Carlo halucinations. After crashing their vehicle, Carlo disappears (was he ever really there?) and Frank has a cocoon growing on his hand. While Barbéri's ride was certainly interesting, I'm not sure I'd want to follow this story for a novel's length or even a collection of such stories, but as surprise piece of okra amid the anthology stew, the story was a welcome surprise.

The pit in Gary Cuba's "The Goldurned Hole" appears out of nowhere. With it come many of H.P. Lovecraft's "squid" beasties which the narrator shoots with his shotgun and sells for bait. This one's winning feature is its backwoods voice.

Told in a fairy tale-like Odyssey set in Africa, "Nyabinghi's Sacred Drum" by Susan Urbanek Linville tells "of how Muhumusa brought dawn to our people amid the spreading night of European occupation." Despite having a son sucking at her breast, Muhumusa seeks the sacred drum to liberate her people. Initially, she travels with a number of men and women who are winnowed away due to monkeys, leopards and giant serpents until Muhumusa is left standing alone before the gods.

Jamie Lackey's "Protection from the Darkness" features a child narrator who helps rescue kittens from the cold who helps the narrator rescue her witchy mother, bewitched due to her persistent mourning of her husband's death. Sadly, this narrator mirrors some of what happens in today's society where children must step up to be the adults in the family.

"The House, the Garden, and Occupants" by Amanda C. Davis presents a young man, Jacob Winterbeam, preparing a house to woo a colleague, yet the house is haunted by an apparition that Jacob tries to exorcise. The conflict is limited to this. The narrator in this piece is problematic in that it either bounces around or the voice has no real stake in the narrative. While it may harken to a different age of storytelling, the style does not match its method. Still, it's hard not to be swept into cheering for the story's emotional outcome.

Madhvi Ramani has a new take on the "Lilith" myth, where Lilith is born with Adam, transforms and flits around the planet before returning to find she's been supplanted by another. This one has much going for although it could push what it does differently.

When Tanya's ex-boyfriend threatens the colonists' lives with his ship, Tanya has to use her own ship to do a "Course Correction" [by Kenneth B. Chiacchia]. It turns out that Tanya's boyfriend is not even on the ship and has taken over her ship's AI. This is a problem story of the Analog variety, an entertaining one.

Thana, a female warrior wants to do penance for her murders in Lydia S. Gray's "The Passing-Bell," but in the convent Thana encounters an involuntarily cloistered young woman who desires to be exactly like Thana, despite Thana's discouragement.

"What Now, Callisthenes" by Christine Lucas retells the legend of Thessalonike who became immortal when trying to save the life of her brother, Alexander the Great. This is told through the words of the dust ghost of the historian Callisthenes, who in life praised Alexander (until Alexander accepted the ways of the Persians) and was killed for having betrayed Alexander. Here, however, Alexander killed Callisthenes for loving his half-sister, Thessalonike. The telling here is a bit over-wrought, yet would not a love-sick dust ghost be overwrought over the life of the woman he loves? It gives the tale a Romantic flavor in both senses of the term; however, it's not clear why Callisthenes is telling the tale as it is not his story and has no major stake (unless it is to lend it more of an old-fashioned savor).

Marshall Payne is likely to offend a few Christians with his "Blue Testament" but the voice and rhythm I found compelling. J.C.'s gang of apostles mope as his Jaguar has crashed and they presume Him dead, but he dashes back out on stage at the end. This didn't carve out much for itself, but the ride was interesting.

Nathaniel Lee leaps out with a dynamic opening in "All Unlooked for" where Tricia wakes to find she's bedded a squirrel. There's charm here although the promising opening is not sustained. Nonetheless, it provides food for thought on unusual loves.

DeAnna Knippling's award-winning "The Third Portal" closes out the anthology. The mother narrator is bitter that her daughter has been permanently taken away from the mother to fight an alien war. In her daughter's body, an alien comes home to live with the narrator, which fails to please the mother. This one might have been the strongest -- in its emotional evocation, its theme, and originality, but the ending wasn't as strong.

For the price, this anthology is a bargain with plenty of amusements to last the speculative reader.

Copyright © 2012 Trent Walters

Trent Walters teaches science; lives in Honduras; edited poetry at Abyss & Apex; blogs science, SF, education, and literature, etc. at APB; co-instigated Mundane SF (with Geoff Ryman and Julian Todd) culminating in an issue for Interzone; studied SF writing with dozens of major writers and and editors in the field; and has published works in Daily Cabal, Electric Velocipede, Fantasy, Hadley Rille anthologies, LCRW, among others.

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