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Crossroads by Brett Cox, Andy Duncan (eds)
Review by Gayle Surrette
Tor HCVR  ISBN/ITEM#: 0765308134
Date: August 1, 2004 List Price 24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Crossroads compiles 26 short stories. The "crossroads" of the title is the meeting of southern and fantastic literature, by writers who either once lived or live in the South. The landscape of the fantastic is that of Southern geography or the author's memory crossed with speculative fiction -- stories includes science fiction, fantasy, horror, and its many permutations.

At least, these are the stated goals of the editors. However, I found that at least 14 of the stories were only southern in that the authors either lived there or came from the South. If you changed the name of the town or city, it wouldn't affect the story, which is disappointing.

The first story in the collection, A Plate of Mojo by Honor?e Fanonne Jeffers, is definitely Southern... but the only fantastical elements are the mojo in the title and a crow which was mentioned in passing a couple of times. While rich and sensual in its description of time and place, telling of the life of a child of a love affair between a white man and a black woman, it seems very out of place. It's unfortunate that it was the first story in the book.

The second story, The Wounded by Richard Butner, started slow but quickly seemed to develop a whiff of Lovecraft, but without the darkness, mystery and spine tingling feeling of ambiguous fear. After the disappointment of the first story in the book, I thought "well here we go." Instead, it is well written but lacks closure and was therefore unsatisfying. Another miss is Alabama by Kalamu ya Salaam, which was more of an essay on justice and murder/suicide. Story elements were only used to forward the problems the essay was trying to highlight. While the stories that were light on fantasy were interesting in themselves, they disappointed because they didn't achieve that sense of the fantastic that I expected from the subtitle.

Several of the stories did manage the fantastic. Houston, 1943 by Gene Wolfe follows the adventures of a young boy pulled out of his body by voodoo who tries to get back inside. Rose by Bret Lott is a very creepy horror story of a lonely woman who wants to find love. Michael Bishop's The Yukio Mishima Cultural Association of Kudzu Valley, Georgia is one of those stories where a careless remark causes a series of events that spin your world out of control.

Mankind Journeys Through Forests of Symbols by Fred Chapell show what happens when dreams manifest and a town is in danger from a symbolist poem that wants to be written. In The Mikado's Favorite Song by Marian Moore where a woman moving into management begins to receive phone calls from her potential children.

On the whole, I think this is one of those books that you should get from the library rather than spend your money buying. It just doesn't pull off the promise of the title and introduction. The few good stories are really good but the mediocrity of the majority of the stories don't make it a good purchase.

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