IS IT NOW YET?
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
William Sanders is the all-too-often overlooked author of such gems as The Wild Blue and the Gray, Journey to Fusang, J., and Billy Badass and the Rose of Turkmenistan. In addition to these novels, he has written numerous short stories, which not often enough find themselves in Year's Best anthologies or awards lists. In Is It Now Yet?, the follow-up to Are We Having Fun Yet?, Sanders collects thirteen of his stories, including the Sidewise Award-winning "Empire" and "Dry Bones," Sanders's own favorite. to demonstrate his versatility and talent.
Sanders has gone on record saying that "Dry Bones" is his favorite short story of all the one's he has written. It shouldn't be a surprise, therefore, that he has elected to open this collection with this story. Set during the Truman administration, it details a summer for Raymond, a young boy growing up in a rural community. When ancient bones are discovered in a cave, he is directly exposed to the world of science in a way which wasn't possible when he just had his science teacher to rely on. However, the archaeologists who arrive, David and Maddy Sloane, are not what he, or the rather conservative community in which he lives, expecting. Their science, however, is not the focus on the story, rather it looks at the opening of the world to Raymond.
Three alternate histories in a row, "Billy Mitchell's Overt Act," "Empire" and "Duce" show Sanders's ability with this subgenre. Although each of these stories (as well as "Sitka," which is the final story in Is It Now Yet?) play with the basic rules of alternate history, each of them take a very different approach to the genre. In "Duce," the idea of traveling back in time to kill Mussolini meets with resistance when other time travelers with a different agenda appear. "Billy Mitchell's Overt Act" looks at a world in which Billy Mitchell's career took a very different turn. In "Sitka," a revolutionary plot is hatched between V.I. Lenin and Jack London in a remote Alaskan outpost, and in "Empire," another strange pair, Napoleon and Aaron Burr, reshape the face of North America.
"Acts" is an example of the humor which infuses so much of Sanders's works. It actually works better in Is It Now Yet? than it did in the original anthology since the anthology's premise doesn't telegraph an important part of the story. It tells the story of a talent agent who books acts across the galaxy and must deal with the variety of racial preferences and foibles each planet has. Told in a light-hearted manner, Sanders demonstrates his deft hand at writing humor, which is all to rare in the world of science fiction and fantasy, and presents an interesting take on what happened behind the scenes at a major historical event.
In "He Did the Flatline Boogie and He Boogied On Down the Line," Sanders demonstrates that despite his reputation for humorous stories and his ability with alternate history, he is quite capable of a dark story of a drug addled future. Has-been musician Jerry Duane delves into the demimonde of Necrodone to find a young girl he is smitten with. What gives the story even more power is Jerry inability to explain what makes Jane Ann worth everything.
The strengths of any anthology are the ability to see a variety of different styles of work by an individual author and getting insight into the author's creative process. With stories as diverse as "He Did the Flatline Boogie and He Boogied On Down the Line" and "Act," Sanders demonstrates his versatility. The introductions, although short, give some clue into how he creates his stories. Is It Now Yet? can offer an excellent introduction to his writing for those who are unfamiliar with him, or a welcome visit with an old friend to those who have read Sanders's short stories and novels in the past.
|Looking for Rhonda Honda||Creatures|
|Dirty Little Cowards||He Did the Flatline Boogie and He Boogied On Down the Line|
|Billy Mitchell's Overt Act||At Ten Wolf Lane|
|Jennifer, Just Before Midnight|
Purchase this book from