Canterbury 2100: Pilgrimages in a new world, edited by Dirk Flinthart
I should be doing a proper review of this for ASIF or someone, but I’m too tired and have so much else to do that I just can’t sit down and put down on screen everything I think about all the stories contained in Canterbury 2100. Also, I’m not sure I can be unbiased about it (for reasons that should become clear below), and I really don’t want to review it as a neutral observer, so I’m not gonna.
Seriously though, if you read one short fiction collection this year (outside of ASIM and TPP stuff that I blog about all the time), THIS SHOULD BE IT!
Canterbury 2100 is a concept that Dirk Flinthart has been percolating for quite some time. I know, because he first came up with the germs of the idea when he put his hand up to edit an issue of Andromeda Spaceways (which became the very awesome ASIM #29). Naturally, for Dirk, the concept was far beyond something that could be achieved in the timeframe and constraints of ASIM, and so instead he went ahead and produced an outstanding issue of the magazine with one of the most talked about editorials of all time, within the normal ASIM framework. The idea didn’t go away though, and fortunately, Cat Sparks saw the beauty in the idea, and recognised the editorial genius of the Flinthart machine, and said, “Heck yeah, AGOG will publish that!” (I may be paraphrasing Ms Sparks…).
For a detailed breakdown of the project, check out the original call for stories HERE. Daunting no? And yet we have such wonderful authorial talent here in Australia that a whole bunch of people heard the call and said, “Heck yeah, I can write that!” (Again, the paraphrase…). And by heck, they did!
I know almost exactly how much time Dirk Flinthart spent editing Canterbury, because he disappeared from the internet for many months, immersed in the reading, editing, cutting, changing and polishing of the stories he chose to fill the pages of this intense read. I can’t even begin to conceive of how challenging it was to take stories by very diverse writers, on very different topics and characters, and draw them into the finely woven tapestry that is Canterbury 2100. (Although I fear I’ll soon understand it better with the forthcoming New Ceres collection…) But I’ll wager it was very. Challenging. Time consuming. Frightening. And well worth the effort.
Somehow, Dirk has managed to twine together a narrative that underlies the 18 stories that comprise this collection, in what becomes a story all on it’s own, written in Flinthart’s own skilful style. He has (no doubt) gently (and possibly occasionally with a rather large whip) coerced his writers into twisting their tales into a form that finds a home in the correct place and space of that narrative, without ever compromising the integrity of the story itself, or misshaping the collection as a whole.
That’s not to say I enjoyed every story: I didn’t. But then, I never enjoy every story in any collection. There were one or two pieces in the anthology that lost me completely, but interestingly, while I didn’t understand them, I still READ them, instead of skipping over those bits I wasn’t getting (as I would normally). So even they were still readable.
The stories tend toward the dark, set in a post apocalyptic world as they are. Some are deeply disturbing, with no hopeful ending to redeem them, while others look toward the future. Some are the hard side of science fiction, others stray into a fantasy style. All have their place and work to create the overall mood of the collection in ways that are frightening and beautiful and rare. I don’t know that I can pick a favourite. Many of them captured me and refused to let me go until I finished reading them, only to be drawn along into the next piece by the clever and evolving sub-narrative. So I’ll just list them all, and it will be for you to decide which ones you liked the most.
Introduction (Dirk Flinthart)
The Tingler’s Tale (Geoffrey Maloney)
The Nun’s Tale (Angela Slatter)
The Dead Priest’s Tale (Martin Livings)
The Veteran’s Tale (Stephen Dedman)
The Miner’s Tale (Laura E Goodin)
The Sky-Chief’s Tale (Sue Isle)
The Census-Taker’s Tale (Kaaron Warren)
The Mathematician’s Tale (Durand Welsh)
The Doctor’s Tale (Ben Bastian)
The Hunter’s Tale (Grant Watson)
The Peat-Digger’s Tale (Thoraiya Dyer)
The Metawhore’s Tale (Lee Battersby)
The Janus’s Tale (Penelope Love)
The Lighterman’s Tale (Trent Jamieson)
The Carbon-Knitter’s Tale (Rita de Heer)
The Evangelist’s Tale (L L Hannett)
The Gnomologist’s Tale (Matthew Chrulew)
The Conductor’s Tale (Lyn Battersby)
Afterword (Dirk Flinthart)
The collection has cover art by the esteemable Nick Stathopoulos, and is very pretty to look at too. Oh, and don’t worry if you’ve never read (or even heard of!) the original Canterbury Tales (although, since A Knight’s Tale, who hasn’t?!) – you don’t need any prior learning. It’s not an English Lit exam. But it IS a damn fine collection, worthy of your time.