Stable Strategies And Others
by Eileen Gunn
Review by Steve Sawicki
Tachyon Publications Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 189239118x
Date: 28 August, 2004 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Stable Strategies And Others is the debut collection from Eileen Gunn who edits the online magazine, The Infinite Matrix. There are an even dozen stories in the anthology, most of them published previously, rounded out by a couple of lengthy introductions and an afterward. To say that Gunn comes highly recommended would be putting it lightly. To read the blurbs, never mind the forwards, you'd get the idea that Gunn is a major talent. And perhaps she would be except for one thing. She's a slow writer. This is neither here nor there when it comes to what's in the anthology but it does explain the praise that drips off this book.
Gunn writes in a fairly tight style and I would guess she spends a significant amount of time, unlike some of us, editing and re-writing. You get the sense that each word you read has importance; that each word occupies that space for a very specific reason. There is a care evident in the crafting that lends itself to a natural flow from word to word, sentence to sentence, page to page. There is also the sense that there is significance behind each story in this anthology, that there are two levels, the one we see and experience by reading and the one that drove Gunn to make these choices, just so and just when.
There are no lightweight tales here. Gunn deals with things of great value: life, organization, choice, and the ponderousness of the past. These are the things that pervade the lives of Gunn's characters and the themes which she wraps them in. Neither is Gunn afraid of her characters. She uses Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Richard Nixon as source material, building alternate world stories about them while at the same time they are not the focal point of the tale but only the thing that moves it forward.
I've been trying to think whom I could compare Gunn with and I'm not having much luck. There's the flavor of Bradbury, a touch of Stephen King and a dash of Larry Niven wrapped in a light haze of Le Guin or perhaps Judith Merril. Regardless, this is an anthology worth hunting down and picking up. Gunn does not write quickly so it could be some time before the next one comes around and you'd not want to be in the position of having waited too long.