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Dislocated Fictions
by Gabriel Chouinard

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introduction: what the hell is this???

This time around, you'll notice that I'm doing something a bit different. I'm actually offering up more than brief blurbs on some of the books that I've read recently.

No, I haven't lost it.

However, I've been treading a fine line in Dislocated Fictions. While I try to offer blurbs on books that I believe deserve your attention, I feel as though I'm cheating those of you who would like to read actual reviews. Unfortunately, I'm not a professional critic, and I just don't feel comfortable providing those reviews! But, in the interest of keeping this column an everchanging potpourri of bizarreness, I've decided to move beyond the capsule reviews, to offer something that, while not exactly professional criticism, at least offers more than my brief opinions.

But first:

a call to arms, a horn-blast for justice

Horrible crimes are being committed.

An author friend of mine, Matt Stover, wrote a wonderful novel entitled The Real Flash Gordon. I've read that novel. However, I doubt you'll be getting your hands on it.

Originally intended to revitalize the Flash Gordon franchise, The Real Flash Gordon has a convoluted history that I cannot in good conscience divulge here. However, the gist of the matter is that the novel ended up at Harper Entertainment, under editor Josh Behar. Behar, by all accounts, loved the story and sent it off for approval at Hearst Publications, and eventually King Features (which actually controls the rights to the franchise).

That approval was never given.

The book was considered an "unwholesome use of the trademark."

What a load of shit.

As I said, I've read this novel. As someone who has grown up with Flash Gordon, from the Alex Raymond strips on up through the campy 80s movie, I'd have to say that this novel is a wonderful addition to the Flash Gordon mythos. It's a daring, at times brilliant, update of the concept, bringing Flash Gordon roaring into the new millennium with more wit, style and sheer white-knuckle action than I've ever seen in a licensed property. Which, sadly, is most likely the reason that it was deemed "unwholesome."

And you will never read it.

It has been solicited on the websites for Barnes and Noble, and Amazon. However, as the stated issue date has come and gone, I believe it is safe to say that the novel has, for whatever reason, been pulled from publication.

So, it's time for a bit of activism.

If you want to read The Real Flash Gordon, it's going to take some hardcore activism. So here you go: contact information to make your job easier.

The guy you're looking for at King Features is Rick Karo. I tried to find contact information for him; however, the best I could come up with is King Features' public relations staff. So, here you go, and tell them you're looking for The Real Flash Gordon:

E-mail us at

Claudia Smith
Director of Advertising & Public Relations
(212) 455-4121

Erin Ketin
Promotion Associate
(212) 455-4186

Nina Kaplan
Sales Promotion Copywriter
(212) 455-4180
The website for King Features is

of saints and swords and all sorts of fun stuff...

[Cover] [Cover] John Marco is a relatively new author to slither his way into the realms of fantasy, and we should be thankful that he made it.

I say slither. Why? Because John Marco is another of those subversive fantasy authors (like George R.R. Martin, Matthew Stover, China Miéville, et. al.) who has managed to slip onto the publishing scene without pandering to the infantile black-and-white morality plays of most epic fantasy. Rejoice, oh readers! for we have yet another author who treats us like adults!

I recently finished John's The Saints of the Sword, which is the third (and, amazingly, the concluding) volume in his trilogy Tyrants and Kings. I must say that I was impressed.

In a novel about redemption, Marco doesn't ever stoop to heavy-handed moral platitudes. There is no preaching, there is no prophecy spelling out what the characters must do to redeem themselves. This is fantasy with grit, fantasy with shit, and fantasy that rises far above the majority of the books on the shelves to present what is, ultimately, a good story. A worthwhile story.

Best of all, Marco has written an epic fantasy tale that doesn't rely upon the tropes of Tolkien and his endless parade of hackish imitators. Nowhere is there a sign of elves or dwarves or Ents. Instead, we are treated to a political tale that, at times, mirrors the real world, while offering up a realistic view of a world plunged into turmoil. There is no clear-cut Good or Evil at play here. There is only madness, war, religious fervor, and innocence lost.

The Saints of the Sword is not without flaws. At times, the prose becomes a bit contrived, a bit forced, a bit purplish. However, what really impresses me is that Marco has visibly grown in his ability to weave a tale. Too often, authors fall into a rut after their first or second novel, and begin repeating themselves endlessly. On the flipside are those writers who constantly strive to better their work, to top themselves with each new novel. John Marco is one such author. I look forward to reading his next, The Eyes of God. I have no doubt that it will be anything less than spectacular.

another visit to the city of saints and madmen

Every so often, I stumble upon an author who completely reshapes the way that I view writing. It's a fairly rare occurrence; in an early life furnished in Moorcock and Peake and Dick and Zelazny, the landscape of my own writing tendencies is already quite bizarre and intimidating. However, I am happy to say that I've found another author who has radically altered the way that I think.

City of Saints and Madmen In the mid-May column, I gave a brief blurb on Jeff VanderMeer's fine forthcoming book, City of Saints and Madmen. I didn't do it justice.

Because I am admittedly not what I would consider a Serious Critic, it would be somewhat hypocritical of me to encourage serious criticism of speculative fiction and then turn around and offer my own unspectacular reviews for perusal. All that I can offer are my own humble opinions of books that I consider 'good'.

City of Saints and Madmen is one of those good books.

This is a collection of novellas set in the city of Ambergris, a place of startling complexity and originality. Ambergris is, without a doubt, one of the strangest creations in all of speculative fiction. As a writer, I can only marvel at the stark originality of the setting that Jeff has envisioned; but that isn't what makes this book a brilliant addition to the realms of speculative fiction. Rather, it is the stories themselves that have set me in awe of Jeff's talents.

Like a literary magician, Jeff weaves vivid imagery with poetic style around tales that examine the depths of the human condition, often offsetting our basest natures with such wit and intelligence that we can only laugh at ourselves. Through the tales contained herein ("Dradin, in Love"; "The Hoegbotton Guide to the Early History of Ambergris by Duncan Shriek"; "The Transformation of Martin Lake" and "The Strange Case of X"), Jeff manages to hold a funhouse mirror before the whole of mankind, so that we may see ourselves in all our twisted, ugly, humorous glory.

The breadth of these tales is such that it would be impossible for me to describe them in anything less than a full article. But that is one of Jeff's many strengths; the ability to work within multiple styles and still create something that is not only worthy of our attention, but which also stands as a unified whole. These stories catapult from humour to horror, from fantastic to absurd and back again in a rush that leaves you breathless. I can honestly say that I haven't had this much fun reading in a long time; Jeff VanderMeer puts Terry Pratchett to shame, instead showing that one note does not sustain when placed against a symphony of words...

Jeff VanderMeer has affected not only my outlook on writing, but also on life. And that is, ultimately, why we read speculative fiction: to have our lives altered and bettered.

experiencing a mid-column crisis

You thought I wouldn't rant this time, didn't you?


In recent months, I've been watching in stunned and appalled silence as the speculative fiction community collapses inward like a bloated corpse finally expelling its trapped gasses. SF websites and webzines and magazines are falling in an incessant wave, collapsing beneath the weight of the entire tech-mess that is threatening just about everything (including the economy). Dismal times are upon us.

I admit that I've been waiting and hoping that this collapse will produce something worthwhile from the ashes of our failures. But I'm not seeing it.

The bookshelves are still overflowing with worthless dreckery bearing the names Star Wars, Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and whatever other licensed properties currently dominate the earth. There are still no truly good speculative fiction magazines on the stands. And the number of good websites dwindles daily.

So what are we going to do about it?

Admittedly, most will simply sit back on their padded laurels and watch, uncaring, as we're taken over by commercialized shitheaps disguised as skiffy. Most will simply lay back and let themselves be covered by endless piles of expensive paper bearing the names of whatever author happens to be "Hot" at the moment, no matter how much their overly-bloated, overly-hyped, overly-written series weighs. But, you know, I'm hoping that some people at least have the balls to stand up and demand what they want.

I've said (countless times) that activism on your own part is the only hope for salvation in this post-coital bliss of commercialization. And I KNOW that there are people out there fighting the good fight, doing their best to combat the saturation of the publishing industry (be it novel, magazine, webzine or website...); however, I don't know where you all are, and I'm afraid that most others don't know where you are either.

If you're doing something, ANYTHING in the battle for quality speculative fiction, I implore you to let me know. Those of us who seek to revitalize and change the current situation are few and far between; it is far past time for us to come together in harmony to fight together as barbarians at the gates. So please, contact me via email at or via my message board at Tell me what you're doing, so I can pass it on to everyone else who may read this column.

And remember; if you're going to be buried in a pile of shit, it's really going to stink.....

what i'm reading now... and what is to come

The Troika Punktown I recently received four books from the Ministry of Whimsy: Leviathan 1&2, edited by Jeff VanderMeer and Luke O'Grady (#1) and Jeff VanderMeer and Rose Secrest (#2); The Troika by Stepan Chapman; and Punktown by Jeffrey Thomas. These are gorgeous oversized paperbacks that I cannot wait to delve into! In particular, I have high hopes for The Troika; I've read Stepan's short story collection, Dossier, and found myself on a journey of fables that were short and simplistic on the surface, but which upon repeated readings contained much more than at first appeared; as The Troika has won a Philip K. Dick award, I can only guess that I will be blown away by this...

I'm still working on that interview with China Miéville that I promised way back when; with luck, our schedules will finally gel and we'll be able to complete this.

I've also been reading a unique experience in fantastic fiction; Tad Williams' Shadowmarch, located at Shadowmarch has me quite intrigued; Tad is attempting something that no other bestselling author has done before. This is interactive web fiction, created by Tad himself (with a motley band of helpers and co-creators), where the readers actually get to participate in the creation of the story via a message board and extensive community. I know, it sounds hokey -- but if anyone can pull this off, it's Tad. I urge you to check out the site, which is (for now, at least) completely free. I will be watching this experiment closely, and will continue to keep you updated on how it's going.

Lastly, I'd like to thank everyone who has sent me encouraging emails over the course of this column. People like you are the reason that I write this. I give you my heartfelt acknowledgement.

Till next time....

Copyright © 2001 Gabriel Chouinard

Gabe Chouinard is a writer and editor living in obscurity, struggling to get published by chucking rocks at the windows of the publishing industry and hoping someone will notice. He runs a Fantastic Metropolis Forum, semi-maintains a pathetic webpage at, and is editing the latest in a line of New Worlds anthologies. Still, he isn't making any money...

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