If the title of this reminds you of that fabulous little book by Arthur C. Clarke (Tales from the White Hart, for those for whom it does not remind - definitely something you should read!) then you’d be right - this is not just a knock off, but is dedicated to the great man, both literally (as in: written in the front of the book), but also in spirit; this is much more that just nicking the format, it is as much a homage to a SF Classic as it is a collection containing some well-known contemporary writers which can stand on its own.
And yes, we’re talking of the likes of Neil Gaiman, Stephen Baxter, Charles Stross, James Lovegrove, Adam Roberts, Liz Williams, or Ian Watson here. You might have heard of the odd one of them?
Let me start by confirming that this is a great topical collection, with a variety of approaches and styles of tales (much more than the original, which was written by one writer only!); and that you definitely should get this to read yourself if you like such collections, liked the Clarke book, or enjoy fannish banter and references (also known as ‘talking toot in the pub’ by a friend who shall not be named here).
I definitely had much fun puzzling over the cryptic names of the writers and fans in the stories (well, cryptic for some of them), and I’m sure I missed a lot of the in-references. Not that you cannot enjoy this volume without getting any of them, mind.
Below is a run-down of the writers, their stories, what they are about, and what I thought of them. If that kind of thing affects your enjoyment reading the book then stop here, get your wallet/credit card, and head over to your favourite bookshop to obtain a copy. For everybody else - here we go:
Peter Weston - An Introduction
Exactly that - the what, the why (!), and the who. Including some fun reminiscences of how difficult it used to be to obtain US published books…
Ian Whates - No Smoke Without Fire
Starting the dance is the Editor himself - a tasty little tale of a mishap at an EMP Defense research facility, and on how smoking can save one’s life. And, I suspect, the introduction and template for all the other writers in terms of setting, names et al.
Stephen Baxter - Transients
A story about a Consultant, working on the Neutrino Communications Monitoring Facility of the CIA. Which does not exist (the facility, not the CIA). And if did exist then the CIA would not have one. And they definitely would not have observed no signals of any alien origin. Clever, and fun.
Ian Watson - Forever Blowing Bubbles
West Ham (no, really), Bubble Universes, Quantum Foam, the Sacrilege of drinking Lager (!), and an unspeakable act even worse than that. Oh dear.
Paul Graham Raven - On the Messdecks of Madness
A Navy/Librarian story, about an immortal Navy Office, about Newton having found the Philosopher’s Stone, and about Pepys having hidden the Gold. This has the makings of something bigger, ie it feels a bit like a sketch for a Novella or a Novel. Fun already!
James Lovegrove - The Story Bug
Here we’re getting clever, with stories within stories within stories… “How very Lovecraftian, Adam observed. Or is it Langfordian?". Arf. A funny (?) little story of a Top Secret government agency/facility developing a virus to compel interrogation subjects to tell, compulsively, consistent and complete stories. Slightly scary, in a funny way.
Neil Gaiman - And Weep like Alexander
Now, who would dare writing a Papa Schimmelhorn pastiche, than the great Neil Gaiman. It’s about an Uninnovator, Yes, indeed.
Colin Bruce - The Ghost in the Machine
A little story about a student the narrator used to know, who produced a program to better the woeful photofits the police produce and use. But, as you could have guessed, this is not all that happened, and not the only use the technology was put to …
Charles Stross - A Bird in Hand
Breeding Dinosaurs, Fundamentalist Preachers with a down on teh ghays, the Anti-Darwining Dinosaur Museum, and some other topics we shall summarise under ‘potentially subject to Rule 34’. Maybe. Death by inhaling Dinosaur Semen? You asked…
Liz Williams - The Hidden Depths of Bogna
Well, Bogna is one of the Fountain’s Bar Maids. And I won’t spoil the surprise - this a stand-out in the book, for more than one reason.
Eric Brown - In Pursuit of the Chuchunaa
An entertaining yarn of a Russian expedition into Siberia (Bratrensk - 200km from Tunguska), to hunt for the Chuchunaa, a mythical proto-human. No, it’s not as simple as you now think.
Steve Longworth - The Cyberseeds
A tall tale which required rather more Real Ale than most of the rest. And, at least for me, one of the weakest stories in the collection. Sorry Steve.
Henry Gee - Feather of the Dinosaur
A Fountain Regular - a specialist on the Evolution of Birds - has seen a paper (and proof of its claims) which turns everything we know about birds and Dinosaurs on its head…
Andy West - Book Wurms
Books as a memetic life form, replicating via humans. Fascinating, Fantastic, a great story.
David Langford - The Pocklington Poltergeist
Dagon Smythe - psychic investigator, “demi-celebrity”, visits the Fountain and tells a (rather weak) tale. But other things are afoot…
Andrew J. Wilson - The Last Man in Space
Our narrator takes a trip to Edinburgh, and visits the local cabal of writers, fans, scientists and storytellers meeting in pubs. And hears the story, as fascinating as it is improbable, of the Scottish Nuclear Rocket.
Peter Crowther - The Incredible Multiplicity of Phaedra Lament
A rather heavy-going and really rather sad story about relationships, children, and what this would/could mean from a Quantum theory viewpoint. A bit too much info dump from my perspective, but a great story nevertheless.
Tom Hunter - The Girl with the White Ant Tatoo
Termite Mounds are Hive Minds, are logged into the Interwebs, are studying Humanity, and are live-remixing club tracks. You couldn’t make it up. Top stuff!
Adam Roberts - The 9’000’000’001st Name of God
A homage if I ever saw one.
Still here? Ok, now it’s time to go get the book, unless the above is a complete turn-off, which would be my fault, and not the book’s!
Title: Fables from the Fountain
Author: Neil Gaiman, Stephen Baxter, Charles Stross, James Lovegrove, Adam Roberts, Ian Watson
Reviewer URL: http://thierstein.net
Publisher: Newcon Press
Publisher URL: http://www.newconpress.com
Publication Date: 2011
Review Date: 140914
Price: UKP 9.99
Format: Trade Paperback
Topic: Fantastic Stories