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Infinity Plus Singles
John Grant/Anna Tambour/Iain Rowan/Kit Reed/Lisa Tuttle and others
Infinity Plus, assorted sizes

Infinity Plus
Infinity Plus is Keith Brooke's publishing arm. There you'll find science fiction, fantasy, horror and crime ebooks for Kindle, Nook and other e-readers

Infinity Plus
Infinity Plus Singles
Keith Brooke Website
ISFDB Bibliography: Keith Brooke

The Life Business
Picking Blueberries
One Step Closer
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Trent Walters

Keith Brooke's Infinity Plus -- its first incarnation being a repository of free online fiction from nearly every major writer in the field -- has been releasing ebook singles, which he compares to the 45 rpm music singles of yesteryear. Give it a try, he says, and you might decide to buy the album -- a larger collection or novel by the same. Great idea, that -- one worth exploring below.

John Grant, multiple-award winner for his nonfiction, in "The Life Business" tells about Peter, a young boy sent to military school because his parents didn't want to deal with him. One night he goes outside the school barracks to relieve himself in a sinkhole and hears two men dragging a heavy object, complaining of the man's weight. To make matters worse, Peter had taken off his pajama bottoms to do the deed. And when he pokes his head above the ground to see what's going on, he's caught. Now they have two bodies to get rid of. Peter has to justify himself. Even better is how there's a promise that probably ought not to have been kept. This dark mystery is highly recommended. He also has the story, "The Wooden Horse" in the free collection, infinities, which tells of an alternate universe where the Axis won, yet movies at the local theater show films where the Allies win....

Anna Tambour's "Picking Blueberries" relates the experience of a young boy, Dick, living in a 1972 commune situated near a college town. Dick is so young that events he witnesses are white-washed for him, described euphemistically (although Dick is old enough to appreciate T.S. Eliot's moody nature, which makes his age difficult to nail down). The people living in the commune are the faculty whose professors are teaching classes although the classes are not like the ones at the real university -- never mind that they wear the same stained clothes day after day. The "college" recruits -- mostly pretty girls. Dick has them as baby sitters who often grew wider at the waist. Reading through the text, for some readers, will be thrilled enough although other readers might be disappointed at the lack of closure.

"One Step Closer" is Iain Rowan's tale of a kidnapper's stand-off with the police. The narrator, Ward, dissects a hostage taker's psychology and counts the bullets left in his gun before Ward decides how he'll act. Although the story itself is potent and the dissection of the kidnapper psychology intriguing, it might have been a hair more potent if the narrator flayed open more of his own psychology so that the reader knew better what was at risk. Still, it's well worth reading.

In "Playmate" which originally appeared in Fantasy and Science Fiction, Kit Reed's narrator, Karin Fowler, is watching her son, Danny, play with the perfect angel of the neighbor's boy, Denny. One imagines their ages to be around four -- the age where boys are still mastering language yet not old enough for school. Unlike her own son, Denny is sweet and never a chore -- always shares, never fights, always puts things away, never overstays, always dresses clean, cute, and color coordinated. But the boy Denny (or a name something like that -- he has a lisp) is awful like her own son. Stranger still, her son swaps and wears Denny's clothes. Next, Danny changes his bowl cut for Denny's buzz-cut, yet there are no clippers and no hairs left behind. Reed does an excellent job capturing a parent's worries about her children -- what kinds of friends and clothes. The ending's subtle if slightly horrific, depending on your reading, that is.

Lisa Tuttle's Nebula award-winning "The Bone Flute" finds the narrator immediately smitten by a man, Venn, she sees strutting on a bar. Women had talked Venn into sprouting feathers and dancing. They meet and fall in love although he falls out of love when they arrive on the planet Habille. There they meet a musician who plays the most haunting music on a flute made out of bone. Dissatisfied with her, Venn hooks up with a fellow, local musician. Eventually, he leaves her, too, only to return and find his former wife also has a bone flute. This is an older style of SF, perhaps indicative of its telling. While emotively potent, the world's description is sparse and abstract. Nonetheless, the ending is powerful -- however it is interpreted -- although I prefer the more science-fictional one to the traditional fantasy. Equally engaging is the afterword, which describes the politics behind her attempting to give up her Nebula. Politics are everywhere. This is an engaging reminder -- and one method of resolving or coming to terms with it.

Probably the most intense, beautifully complex, emotionally gripping of all of these is "Lizard Lust" by Lisa Tuttle. An ordinary librarian -- a single woman -- is torn between being moved to protect the homeless that grow in number in her library and throwing them out. One homeless person, though, actually pulls a stack of books out to read. When the librarian stops by she realizes what she thought was a man is woman -- a woman with something roaming the front of her layered clothes. Moreover, the books she's reading are all upside down. Meanwhile, interlaced with this past narrative, the text moves to the present where the librarian is imprisoned and abused by a man named Gart. The present society is a world where women can't read and are essentially second-class citizens. Yet there are all of these dropped hints that what is a man may be female. Is she attracted or repulsed by the lizards? This fascinating read of role-reversals and ambiguities is a must -- perfect for multiple readings and cogitation.

Playmate The Bone Flute Lizard Lust infinities

As a set, Keith Brooke has picked strong stories to sell as singles. Those of Lisa Tuttle, Kit Reed and John Grant, especially, should spark reader interest in longer collections. Meanwhile, readers sampling Tambour and Rowan will know that they are in the hands of talented writers and whether the readers want more.

But how do you know from one story if you want to keep reading? Who's to say that because an author wrote one thing you like, you'd want the rest? The problem with just one story is that sometimes the author's experimenting with aspects of narrative -- as is the case in Anna Tambour's -- we can't be sure we like all experiments the author out to play with, or conversely, her narrative play may be rare: then readers who love play will be disappointed.

The original 45s had B-sides, songs not available elsewhere. They were a sort of an art form: what other songs in the same spirit as the album but did not quite make the cut? Likewise, maybe these "singles" could give a better feel for the other if paired with something, even if weren't quite as good as the featured story. infinities, a free ebook, might be a good source for pairing up work, sampling more than one story. Moreover, you could lure the collectors, those who have to have something new -- even something as small as a short short, yet something the author cares about. Even better -- like the spirit of the album -- the other short could reflect interests/concerns/themes/moods/imagery/motifs of the original. Now that sounds like an exciting project.

Sure, readers could buy multiple singles to see for certain if that's what they want, but will they? Plus, you have the two-fer: it's hard to pass on a bargain.

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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