Welcome to another month of posts and discussions about a book that fails to meet the tedious standards of the coastal media trend setters. Instead, we talk about books that are fun to read, written by the wrong sorts of people, and that don't provide a dose of left-wing message fiction. We read books in class when we should be listening to her drone on about the import of To Kill A Mockingbird. We gorge ourselves on books with knights who save princesses (rather than the other way around), hard sci-fi military fiction featuring grizzled drill sergeants with multiple robotic limbs, and dog eared paperbacks printed on cheap yellow paper with anatomically correct models wearing impractical garb and sword fighting on alien planets in the far future. In short, we're the kids your English teacher warned you about.
This month's selection, Thune's Vision, by Schuyler Hernstrom, was made by the Frisky Pagan, and I for one could not be happier about it. Schuyler Hernstrom burst onto the scene with a series of well-received short fiction works in Cirsova Magazine, and this month's Puppy features five more of his outstanding works. We'll get into each story in more detail later - for today, I just want to talk about the book as a whole.
For one thing, Schuyler hasn't appeared on any Puppy voting lists. He isn't an Appendix N author. So where do we get off classifying him as a Puppy? If you've read the book already, you'll agree that his work is too avante garde - in the best throwback style - to show up in the reading circles of the File770 types. His stories are well written, fun to read, don't batter you with identity politics, and feature the sort of good-versus-evil, sword swinging barbarians, and complete lack of regard for modern day politics that the Puppy of the Month Book Club loves.
The stories in this collection are an eclectic bunch, written by a man who seems to be experimenting. That's an awfully dry and clinical word that doesn't do the results justice. This body of work consists of a series of homages to different styles of sci-fi and fantasy. In one he's playing with the classic white hat versus black hat. In another, he's trying his hand at alien worlds written from the alien perspective. In another, he takes a whimsical fairy tale approach to the anti-hero getting his just deserts.
Each story takes a different tone, and has a very different feel. In the hands of a lesser writer, it might feel random or like an inexperienced author trying to find his voice. Thune's Vision didn't strike this reader that way. Rather, that the author is adept at writing from different perspectives - that he seamlessly dons new personas like a stage actor.
That gift of Hernstrom's is a powerful one, and one that the big publishing houses seem hell bent on running away from. They place a strong emphasis on the identity of the writer, and insist that the writer bring his or her own voice to each work. This book cuts across that grain by featuring a writer who doesn't have A voice. He's got a lot of voices. And they are all a lot of fun to hear.
And that, dear reader, is the true measure of literature.