Creatures of Glass and Light – New European Stories of the Fantastic
Edited by Klaus Æ. Mogensen
Science Fiction Cirklen 2007
Price 199 DKr from www.sciencefiction.dk
This anthology, containing fourteen different stories written by authors from thirteen European countries, was published in connection with Eurocon 2007 in Valby (Copenhagen, DK).
First of all, let me applaud all the effort that has gone into making this collection a reality. It is highly commendable that stories of the fantastic, written with a European twist and flavour, find their way to collective publication. We sorely need such showcases to illustrate, that writers from USA are not the only ones capable of writing quality stories stirring our imagination.
The collection certainly documents the talent existing in Europe, and bravely spans the width and length of our continent from Finland and Denmark to Romania and Portugal.
However, the problems inherent in bringing out a collection of stories in English, but written by authors with twelve different mother tongues, are also very apparent in the collection. Most stories have been translated from the original language of writing, though one writer (Alain le Bussy from Belgium) has written directly in English, and two stories are from authors who have English as their mother tongue (Ian McDonald and Tony Thorne). The quality of the translations varies greatly and this reflects directly on the readability and understanding of the stories. Frankly, I gave up on one of the stories and struggled greatly with a couple of others and I’m a reader who in my professional work is subjected daily to very diverse written English from people from all over the globe.
I have chosen to concentrate on the more tasty and approachable morsels I found in the collection, and not deal with the stories I found too long, too lacking in originality or badly written and/or translated.
Initially I have to strongly recommend Ian McDonald’s ‘The Djinn’s Wife’, by far the longest story in the collection, and by itself well worth the price! The story won this year’s Hugo Award for Best Novelette and is a tightly structured love-story between a woman and an AI set in a future India, split up into several independent states (the same world as McDonald’s 2004 novel ‘The River of Gods’). The language flows and flowers with numerous Indian allusions and the plot is believable and well woven. I read the story when it first appeared in Asimov’s in July 2006 but thoroughly enjoyed rereading it again now. It can be argued that the story is not specifically ‘European’ in it’s tone, characters or setting – it might as well have been written by an American – but who cares, when it has such energy and imagination.
I also very much enjoyed the opening story, ‘The Light Ones’ from Finnish writer Mari Saario. Set in Finland (or a very similar country) in the past, it does very well in describing the setting and the characters and has a nice psychological plot angle. It has a Finnish tone and telling and though the translation could have been better it did not seriously mar the story. Quite original too. Other favourites of mine are Jaap Boekestein’s nicely crafted ‘The opener of women’ and Alain le Bussy’s ‘Gream’ which is sort of a ghost story set in space. I also readily admit to having a soft spot for Costi Gurgu’s ‘The glass plague’, which recalled memories of a trip to a drab and dusty Bucharest in the mid-1970’ies. The story is marred by a halting, unsuccessful translation, but creates an atmosphere all of its own and does have healthy doses of that unique European flavour.
Those are my personal preferences and yours will certainly differ but I suggest you buy and read the collection, and find your own favourite stories amongst the wide selection it offers.
Much deserved praise should go to Science Fiction Cirklen and the editor, Klaus Æ. Mogensen, for making such a collection available – and may the obtained experience help in creating a better anthology next time. If we Europeans are to make our voices heard above the incessant din of American writers – who are, admittedly, often very good – we need a higher level of professional translation and a very careful selection procedure to ensure a consistent quality.
Anmeldt af Richard Ipsen i Himmelskibet nr.15 / Sky Ship nr.1,5