Monday, April 25, 2011

Benjamin Rosenbaum's "The Ant King And Other Stories" (Steak Knives)

This is a really solid collection of short fiction in the slipstream genre - material I've been chasing down whenever possible over the past several years.  This sort of stuff is heir to Donald Barthelme's masterful short storytelling, and Rosenbaum's 'Ant King' is a fine contributor to the canon.  (Kelly Link also comes to mind here.) 

Rosenbaum styles himself a 'plausible fabulist' (makes a point of it, really) which is an interesting inversion of 'magical realism' when you think about it.  I'm not sure it's worth measuring the exact ratio of plausible vs. fabular here, or in contrast to other 'm.r.' authors but the distinction certainly had me approaching the stories with an eye to it.

Link here to read Rosenbaum's "Start the Clock."  It's one more easily pigeonholed into a sci-fi/fantasy blend making it less representative of the collection overall, but a really compelling premise makes it worth including here - in short, a world where we could 'stop the clock' on physical aging, then pushes further to explore how clusters of body-age groups (say, teens, tweens, children etc.) settle and entrench into distinct cultures and values, then pushes further still to explore the psychological/social/physical repercussions when somebody wants to start the clock running again.

I'd certainly recommend this to anyone with heart for really creative fiction that's playful with conventions, steals liberally from other genres and tropes, and entertains completely even while disrupting the active reader.

Clear as mud?

On that note: for a really great collection of slipstream from a variety of authors working in this emerging genre, check out "Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology."