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Edge of Our Lives
Mark Rich
RedJack, 272 pages

Edge of Our Lives
Mark Rich
Mark Rich was born in 1958 in Chicago, IL and raised there and in Aurora, CO. He earned a degree in music from Beloit (Wisconsin) College, with emphasis on composition. His first professional fiction sale was "Foreigners," for Full Spectrum 4 (April, 1993). A columnist on toy history in Toy Shop and Toy Cars & Models magazines, from the mid-1990s until the demise of those magazines in early 2008, he wrote several books of toy nostalgia/history for Krause Publications, including 100 Greatest Baby Boomer Toys (2000), Toys A to Z (2001) and, with collector Jeff Potocsnak, Funny Face (2002). He lives in the Coulee region of southwestern Wisconsin.

Mark Rich Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

There are science fiction stories that are in essence about the ideas of science fiction. That's a tradition that stretches from Jules Verne and on into the magazines of the Golden Age and survives in its most pure form in what we often refer to as hard SF. An alternative method is to instead use the concepts of SF, whether they be space travel, alien encounters, visions of a future world, etc., as the building blocks for setting up stories that aren't about technology or science as such. It's an equally honorable tradition that comes out of Mary Shelley, H.G. Wells, Philip K. Dick and continues today with writers who have variously been labeled everything from New Wave to soft SF, slipstream, and, in its latest incarnation, the New Weird. Both styles, the hard and the soft, present their own challenges, and in the case of Mark Rich, the stories and poems collected in Edge Of Our Lives establish him as a writer working comfortably and stylishly in the not too narrow confines of the latter.

Most of the stories in Edge Of Our Lives appeared first in various small press magazines, and it's pretty easy to see why. It's not because they're not well written, the prose here is as good or better than what you'll find in the major outlets, but these are not stories that are about adventures or the discovery of new technologies. Instead, they're about what happens to people who find themselves caught up in the weirdness of a world determined by the concepts of science fiction and fantasy. For example, in "To Make A Love Story Short," the life of a man who gives up inventing for the theatre is contrasted with a woman who looks out at the world and sees reality in terms of numbers. In "A Fossil At Evening Fall" a man contemplates the possible effect his absence could have on a world he is thinking about leaving behind. And in the nearly surreal "Fear Of Tall Buildings," the lives of office workers revolve around buildings that appear and vanish with every new day.

The stories in Edge Of Our Lives tend to be short. They are in essence mood-setters, small glimpses of a reality in which the things we take for granted are twisted in ways that bring them in to a new light, and reveal to us just how much peoples lives depend on what it is that they perceive as real. In much the same way as writers like Kelly Link and Jeff Vandermeer, Mark Rich takes the conventions of science fiction and fantasy and stands them on their heads in order to create glimpses of a world where everything is at once commonplace and out of the ordinary. That's a neat little trick, and one that proves once again that creativity and insight can be found just as well outside of the mainstream of hard SF and fantasy as within it. Indeed, by taking such an approach, writers like Mark Rich guarantee that assumptions and methods of science fiction and fantasy will continue to be tested and stretched. That's a very good thing for any field of artistic endeavor, and especially necessary for one that prides itself on continually exploring new ideas and new ways of telling the stories that come out of them. Mark Rick's stories, by taking us right to the edge of what we think of as SF, do just that.

Copyright © 2009 by Greg L. Johnson

In his capacity as associate editor of Tales of the Unanticipated, reviewer Greg L Johnson has had the pleasure of reading several of Mark Rich's stories as submissions to that magazine. Greg's reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction. And, for something different, Greg blogs about news and politics relating to outdoors issues and the environment at Thinking Outside.

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