I have found in my short history of writing reviews, it seems to me that one person’s absolute favorite plate of finely-crafted sushi can be another person’s stomach-turning, “I can’t believe you’d eat raw fish!” dish. Most of liking something is subjective. However, even within this area of subjectivity--both in food and in writing--there are certain standards that most critics can hold up as markers of quality.
Mark Tiedmann’s Gravity Box and Other Spaces published by Walrus Publishing, Inc., definitely contains the marks of quality from beginning to end. The dishes he serves are varied, nicely spiced, and will satisfy a variety of fantastical palates.
In some pieces--for example “By Other Names,” “Private Words,” and “The King’s Arrows”--like a quality chef, he blends in only a hint of mystical twists and lets the reader fill in the gaps. In others the magic or technology takes on a bolder flavor such as in “Preservation,” “The Disinterred,” and “Gravity Box.”
Additionally, Tiedmann’s clever descriptions helps create unique characters for each story. In “The Playground Door” he describes the son Jonathan as having “...a precocious mask of seriousness.” A passage from “Along the Grain” describes the two antagonists when they first appear, running, “...with the gangly abandon of kids in summertime, arms flailing, faces stretched in manic grins.”
As with most speculative fiction, his themes run along the lines of finding one’s true self, the exploration of the human condition against the foil of shiny technology, and the joys and sorrows of relationships in a variety of forms. Yes, for those of you who want to know, this does include passages of adult content both sexual and violent, but they are related to the story, not just thrown in for shock value.
For all my literary friends, the specific genres of his stories include folktales/mythologies, erotic fantasy, magical realism, new age fantasy, supernatural/paranormal, traditional fantasy, sci/fi, and near future sci/fi. IMHO. Mark may disagree. Do you? I’d love to hear from you. ;-)
AND as a side note, I’m highly jealous that Mark has attended one of the Clarion workshops, (the Holy Grail of Sci/Fi and Fantasy writer workshops). One day, my friends. One day….
So, in conclusion, if you’d like an interesting mix of bold tastes, subtle fragrances, and stories that make you wonder, make Gravity Box part of your speculative fiction reading list this summer. And maybe try some sushi.
Next week’s main course on Revision is a Dish Best Served Cold:
Hello. I'm Janet Cannon and I'm An Adverbaholic.
On the menu for the future: an interview with Margot Dill (Editor 911) about her new book
Caught Between Two Curses
and Why is Revising so hard?
Also look for my articles on Walrus Publishing’s website.
Currrently: How Writing is Like a Marathon