Clockwork Phoenix 4 – review

Clockwork Phoenix 4
Ed. Mike Allen
Mythic Delirium Books, July 2013
Reviewed by Michelle Anjirbag

Clockwork Phoenix 4This is the book that Kickstarter built, to paraphrase Mike Allen, now-four-time editor of the fantasy and science fiction anthology, Clockwork Phoenix. What makes this fourth edition so special is that it belongs to an impassioned community of writers and readers who went above and beyond to make it happen. Allen, as editor, put together a collection of stories from new and established writers that honors and reflects just that.

I am a huge fan of anthologies, and for me, the mark of a good anthology is that every piece should not please every reader. This sounds counter intuitive, but especially when courting the genres of science fiction and fantasy, this method shows that the editor understands that each of these genres have many facets, and each facet has its own set of fans. A good anthology should give all readers a taste of what they love, and an introduction to something new, in terms of styles, subgenre, and authors. When the editor meets these requirements and still presents to the reader good writing in each story selected, that is even better. Of course, this is just my humble opinion.

But that is enough of my anthological philosophy; here a few of my favorite pieces:

‘¢ “Trap-Weed,” by Gemma Files — an interesting take on Selkie myths, transforming the well-done trope of transformers trapped on land and stolen brides and bridegrooms, into one of high-seas adventure and unlikely friendships.

‘¢ “Beach Bum and the Drowned Girl,” by Richard Parks — The last thing I expected to find in this was such a beautifully written, simple piece that caused me to just pause for a moment. We often think of folklore as something old, reinvented. To find something completely new was refreshing.

‘¢ “A Little of the Night,” by Tanith Lee — Tanith Lee is one of the authors who first pulled me in to loving fantasy and science fiction many years ago, and becoming a bibliophile. This is the first new piece by her I have read in a while, and it did not disappoint. Lee gives us a new kind of monster, a vampiric presence re-teaches us the basic principles of living.

‘¢ “Happy Hour at the Tooth and Claw,” by Shira Lipkin — a new kind of love story, in part inspired by a challenge by the editor himself. What makes a heart whole?

These are only four of the eighteen tales in this collection. All eighteen have the power to pull the reader out of his own reality and transport or transform them entirely. As I said before, this is the book that Kickstarter built, resurrecting the collection for a fourth edition. And I am so very glad it rose again.