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The Last Science Fiction Writer
Allen Steele
Subterranean Press, 310 pages

Allen Steele
Allen M. Steele's first published SF was his story "Live from the Mars Hotel," published in Asimov's Science Fiction in 1988. Since then his novels and collections have included Orbital Decay, Clarke County, Space, Lunar Descent, Labyrinth of Night, Rude Astronauts, The Jericho Iteration, The Tranquillity Alternative and All-American Alien Boy. Steele, a resident of St. Louis, MO, received both the 1996 Hugo Award and the 1996 Science Fiction Weekly Reader Appreciation Award for his novella "The Death of Captain Future," which appeared in Asimov's in June 1995.

Allen Steele Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Primary Ignition
SF Site Review: River Horses
SF Site Review: American Beauty
SF Site Review: Coyote
SF Site Review: Oceanspace
SF Site Review: A King of Infinite Space
SF Site Review: A King of Infinite Space
SF Site Interview: Allen Steele (part 1)
SF Site Interview: Allen Steele (part 2)

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

The Last Science Fiction Writer The Last Science Fiction Writer is Allen Steele's fifth short story collection, released after a long hiatus of collections, but also after a period in which he wrote five books in his Coyote universe. However, just because Steele wasn't publishing a collection, doesn't mean he wasn't publishing short fiction, as this volume, which collects that fiction, clearly shows.

The first story in Steele's collection seems to be a case of auctorial wish-fulfillment. Although Eric Cosby is much younger than Steele, it is easy to see Steele's own interest in the space program mirrored in Cosby's. This is actually quite typical in many of Steele's stories, creating characters which are quite Mary Sues, but still give the indication that they are some sort of alter ego for the author's own desires. Steele is a good enough author, and good enough at characterization, however, that these characters are designed in a way to allow the reader to relate to their desires.

While Coyote may have formed a large part of Steele's recent output, only a couple of the stories featured in The Last Science Fiction Writer are set in that world, with others taking place in Steele's original future history series which was based more on the idea of the first space workers being almost mythic in their proportions (while, at the same time, human). Both "High Roller" and "Moreau2" are reminiscent of Steele's earlier works when spacejocks were hard drinking, hard playing, and heavily into music and pranks.

Steele's writing is generally light hearted, but a couple of pieces in the collection are actually humorous. Both "World Without End, Again" and "The Teb Hunter" are pieces of satirical science fiction which owe as much to the writings of C.M Kornbluth or Robert Sheckley as to the writings of Arthur C. Clarke or Robert A. Heinlein. These stories demonstrate that Steele can leave his comfort zone to write in a variety of styles and to make the reader wish that he would do so a little more often.

The Last Science Fiction Writer showcases many of those styles of stories, which makes it a microcosm of all of Steele's work. A reader who is unfamiliar with Steele's novels can read the ten stories included and come away with a good idea of Steele's style and voice, and a willingness to dive into further works by the author. Readers who have already discovered Steele will be grateful to find that the stories in The Last Science Fiction Writer are in line with the other works Steele has published.

Copyright © 2009 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a seven-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings. He is the publisher of ISFiC Press. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.

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