With the holiday season bearing down upon us (not to mention a ton of end-of-semester grading to take care of), I’m glad to have my good friend Tom Powers helping me out with another review. This week, Tom takes a look at PARSEC Inc’s Triangulation: Dark Glass, a self-described “Annual Confluence of Speculative Fiction.”
Short story anthologies usually work for me, in that, like a decent sushi buffet with a cross section of underwater delicacies, they provide a sampling of authorial styles and genre approaches. This appetite for such an eclectic literary feast was thankfully satiated as I read Triangulation: Dark Glass, the 2009 Edition of PARSEC Ink’s Annual Confluence of Speculative Fiction.
Starting off the anthology in a tongue-in-cheek style that channels Harlan Ellison, Mark Onspaugh’s tale “The Milton Feinhoff Problem” cleverly articulates the repercussion of a seemingly endless stream of Miltons, each different in some way, converging in one Milton’s home. From there, one is exposed to ghosts possessing living bodies in order to experience physical ecstasy in D. K. Thompson’s quirky supernatural detective story, “Saint Darwin’s Spirituals.” Then one can read an unnerving virtual-reality thriller set on an alien world in Kenneth B. Chiacchia’s “Imaginal Friend.”
To be honest, I am quite partial to the fourth tale in Triangulation: Dark Glass: “Monstrous Embrace,” Rachel Swirsky’s tale of a mysterious dark spirit that offers a Catch-22 scenario to a prince who is saddled with a duplicitous fiancée. The twist, however, without revealing too much, is that the spirit’s offer, as twisted and morbid as it stands, works in a convincing manner. In short, this story’s winning combination can be found in the story’s plot, which, when coupled with the talented Swirsky’s eloquent writing style, forms a tale that contains a true literary vibe.
In Aaron Polson’s “Dancing Lessons,” a girl poignantly encounters an animated carnival monster who may be her dead father while Lon Prater’s “Deadglass” depicts the courageous efforts of a priest to unravel the truth behind an otherworldly, religious-themed mystery. The subject of religion continues when the recently deceased man encounters quarrelsome representatives of Earthly faiths in the whimsical “Perchance to Dream,” by D. J. Cockburn, while Gerri Leen’s “Windows to the Soul” portrays a bar-owner complicated moralistic struggle with his partner, a supernatural force that want to feed upon the life forces of the bar’s customers.
“More Things in Heaven and Earth,” by Jason K. Chapman, thoughtfully illustrates the efforts of a lieutenant as he tries to convince others in his military organization that the Children of the Dying Sun, a religious group he infiltrated as an agent provocateur, do not need to be obliterated. Additionally, the influence of Chinese mythology is felt in Kelly A. Harmon’s intriguing “On the Path,” as a farmer deals with the awkward truth one of the souls powering his farming reincarnation engine belongs to his long-deceased uncle.
Kathryn Board’s “Broken Things” presents a lonely woman becoming acquainted for the first time with her dead mother’s genie. Another interesting female lead can be found in Amy Treadwell’s humorous “Audition for Evil,” in which a temperamental sorceress prepares for her audition with the snotty Hexagonal Alliance for Glamourie, while her Chancellor, whom she had transformed into a bird, serves as her comic foil.
A teenage girl’s first job experience working for a mysterious, slightly dangerous old sculptor who has a dark secret is shown in David Seigler’s “One Touch to Remember.” One can next find a parallel Earth, where people hang their souls in their front windows in Kurt Kirchmeier’s appropriately titled “Souls on Display.” The subject of the soul likewise permeates the following tale, Loretta Sylvestre’s “A More Beautiful Monster,” as it delineates the attempts of a sorcerer to undo his deal with the devil.
Closing out the anthology, and working as an old-school-sci-fi-style bookend to Onspaugh’s “Milton” story, Craig’s Wolf’s “Seeing Is” delightfully, and wickedly, tells the story of an all-knowing eyeball’s attempt to corrupt a nine-year-old boy as he is walking home one day. While reading this enjoyable tale, I easily pictured it tele-dramatized in spooky black and white as a Twilight Zone episode.
If your literary palette has now been sufficiently whetted to sample Triangulation: Dark Glass’s smorgasbord of contemporary fantasy and sci-fi writing, then be sure to pick up this great anthology, which showcases the writing of sixteen talented writers.
Tom Powers is the co-author of The Greatest Show in the Galaxy: The Discerning Fan’s Guide to Doctor Who.