edited by Nathan Shumate
Cold Fusion (2011)
Right out of the gate, through the introduction, editor Nathan Shumate makes it clear that he's not a big fan of the themed anthologies prevalent in speculative fiction. The themes tend to be too restrictive to readers and writers alike, with the end results often presenting a collection of stories too closely resembling one another. Well, such an accusation cannot be heaved at Arcane, which presents as eclectic an array of stories as I've read in a while.
Arcane weighs in with thirty stories, some flash fiction, a couple teetering on novella-length, and all of them striking their own chord. A few of the names are familiar, but most are brand new to me and I give Nathan credit for finding some very promising writers who should be on the rise in the years ahead.
One of the familiar names is Milo James Fowler with a weird western tale called "El Diablo De Paseo Grande." I've developed an affinity for weird westerns over the last year or so and this one didn't disappoint. The hard-bitten posse on the trail of a predatory and parasitic creature was a good mix in personalities, and the thing wearing the proverbial black hat was just damned cringe-worthy.
Another name, one I suspect will become very familiar to horror readers soon enough, is Damien Walter Grintalis. I've had the good fortune to check out her short fiction over the last couple years, as if periodically shows up on various e-zines and websites. With "The Web of Legends," I am almost positive I read an early incarnation of the story during a flash fiction contest we both participated in, and back then I thought it was really good. In this anthology, with a little spit and polish, it's just about perfect.
Another story that fits the weird western mold--sue me if I seem a bit biased--is "Tied" by D.T. Kastn, an author whose work is new to me. The protagonist, Lidy, a Calamity Jane type of gunslinger was really enjoyable to read, especially as her vulnerabilities shined through in her interactions with the man she's captured named Paul.
The anthology offers a real mixed bag as far as genres go, and there is definitely something for everyone, from those weird westerns, to fantasy, some science fiction, and don't forget the horror. I didn't gravitate towards all of the stories, and there were a couple I just had to skip over out of disinterest, but with thirty to choose from I had a wellspring of quality yarns to read. Anthony J. Rapino had a a good story with "Destination Unknown," as well as Gemma Files with a novella called "Black Bush" that is so good it reminded me I need to hurry up and read the next book in her Hexslinger series.
I remember when Arcane initially started as a periodical before switching to an annual anthology format. While the method of delivery has changed, the quality of stories hasn't, and it's one of the better anthologies I've read that gives a stage to authors on the rise. Personally, I'm not at all opposed to themed anthologies, in fact I've read a couple this year that have been downright amazing. With that in mind, there is something to be said for a book that can offer a motley crew like this.