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DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

Stable Stratgies and Others
Eileen Gunn
$14.95 (206p) Tachyon
ISBN: ISBN 189239118X

Book Cover This debut collection has been a long time coming. In the 27 years since Eileen Gunn's first professional sale she's offered up a dozen stories -- definitely a matter of quality over quantity. Each of her tales is tightly written and often polymerizes molecules of sf, fantasy, horror, surrealism, and satire into a weight greater than the original elements. As a consequence, the reader is provided with fodder for a few Deep Thoughts as well as some wry grins. Gunn is at her best when slicing into American society. In title story "Stable Strategies for Middle Management," the dehumanizing, soul-sucking demands of the American career are allegorized as literally dehumanizing bioengineered physical alterations (the better to be a "more useful corporate organism"). The best and brightest youngsters, as long as they are not too sociable or too physical, are selected to be integrated into a societal cyber-system in "Computer Friendly." The children who are not "computer friendly" enough? They go to the inauspicious "Asia Center." "Fellow Americans," in which Barry Goldwater wins the 1964 election and Richard Nixon becomes a popular television game show host is brilliantly done, but may not resonant as well with readers under age 30 as it does with baby boomers. "Nirvana High" (co-written with Leslie What), however, crosses the generations. Set in a future where Microsoft owns everything, it focuses on Cobain Magnet High where the "special ed" students have paranormal talents. At Cobain, the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" lyric "Entertain us" means "one thing to the teachers, another to the students. To the teachers it meant 'pay attention.' To the students it meant 'stop whatever you're doing that's interesting and do what we want you to do.' To Kurt Cobain, of course, it had meant 'stick a shotgun in your mouth.'" It's the sort of fiction that tells a great deal of truth with a great deal of wit and in the seven or so years since it was written has grown eerily closer to reality. Since it will probably be two or three more decades until Gunn compiles another, make sure you don't miss this collection
-- Originally published: Cinemafantastique, February 2005

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