In an age when the eBook is gaining ground, I wonder why I don’t read more short fiction. I read plenty of fantasy and science fiction novels (usually 25-30 every year) and have even thrown in some Steampunk into the mix recently, but only rarely pick up anthologies of short fiction. So how did I luck into reading the first issue of a new quarterly digital collection of fantasy, Steampunk, and science fiction?
When the Stories in the Ether project was announced by Jonathan Jacobs at the Nevermet Press website back in March 2011, I was intrigued. Not only were they encouraging new and established authors to submit short stories and flash fiction, but those stories would be published (if accepted) on the website as well as in a quarterly publication (printed, PDF, or eBook) and the authors would receive a percentage of the net revenue for as long as the story was available for sale. This was a great opportunity for writers trying to get noticed, get their work read, and potentially be published.
The first story published, “Mottephobia” by Gary B. Phillips, appeared on the website on March 31, 2011 — and in Issue 1 of Stories of the Ether in September 2011 along with twelve other stories that followed the same publication pattern. Issue 2 was available in November 2011 with nine more stories. And apparently Jacobs received around 200 submissions between March and November, which is incredible. Issues are available in PDF and ePub formats in the iTunes Bookstore as well as on Amazon, so they’ve done a great job making these stories available to a broad audience using a wide range of devices.
Though I can’t say that all of the stories in Issue 1 were my favorites, there were some great stories in the mix.
My hands-down favorite is “The Recondite Riddle of the Rose Rogue” by Dawn Vogel, which features a pair of sisters investigating the theft of one of the family’s prized mechanical flowers from their private garden. Yes, you read that correctly – mechanical flowers. I told you there was some Steampunk in this mix, didn’t I? This story hits me like the love child of a Sherlock Holmes tale and a Nancy Drew or Encyclopedia Brown mystery. Beautifully done, it manages to capture the impetuousness of youth with the manners of Victorian England and throws in a bit of Jules Verne for good measure. Hopefully we’ll see more from Vogel and explore further into the world of Chrysanthemum and Marigold very soon.
My other favorite was “Tool” by Jason Rolfe, which presented a fantastic adventure in a city with magic, gods, and war all wrapped up in a neat little package. I couldn’t help but think of some of my own adventures playing Dungeons & Dragons while Tool and Azar did their best to stay alive against increasingly poor odds. The depth of the city description was what sold it for me, especially as Rolfe reveals the different deities and political groups all struggling for control. It even felt Conanesque without getting bogged down by Robert E. Howard’s sometimes verbose style.
All in all, I definitely recommend Stories in the Ether, Issue 1 to anyone looking for some fresh voices in the fantasy, science fiction, and Steampunk genres. The stories were well-written and varied in genre and style enough to avoid any two seeming too much alike. And when I was done, I was ready to pick up Issue 2 to see what stories I’d missed on the Nevermet Press website in the time between issues!
Stories in the Ether is available at the Amazon Kindle store as well as the Apple iBookstore, Smashwords, Lulu, and DriveThruFiction.com.