Thursday, June 14, 2012

Short Fiction Month: Stories from EMPIRE STATE (Angry Robot Worldbuilder)

When the robotic publishing geniuses at Angry Robot released the mind bending book Empire State (see review here) by Adam Christopher, they also launched the collaborative project website WorldBuilder.  Here any and all fan creators who could write, paint, draw, sculpt or what have you, were invited to play in Christopher's noir alternate New York and create other, new works based on his novel, all with the blessing of Christopher and Angry Robot.

As I am such a fan of author AND book, I thought it would be fun and interesting to read and review the short fiction pieces that other artists have created in Empire State.  If you are wondering what it would be like to stretch your own creative muscles in the Empire State, you can find out how here and can also check out what other artists have done.

Now on to the stories!

First up is "The Biggest" by Hugo, Nebula and Locus award winning author James Patrick Kelly.  In his first ever superhero story, Kelly introduces us to Filbrick Van Loon, or "The Stilt", an earnest young man traveling to New York City to try to find his fortune in the big city after the loss of his mother.  What he finds is indeed the chance of a lifetime, but fame comes with a high price.  Kelly seems to be enjoying himself here and even ties in a well known event in NYC "history" with Van Loon's story.  "The Biggest" fits very nicely into the Empire State universe.

"This Here Empire State Ain't Mine" by Renee Parker is a short piece that works more as an introduction to her characters Emma Weston and Wilma Easton; I'd love to see more of their adventures together.  Again, it's a short piece but such is Parker's writing that her characters and their history are very intriguing.  They also seem to have living in the Empire State down pat, so you find yourself wanting to know how they manage and what happens next...more please, Renee!

"The Alienist and the Showgirl" by Keith Harvey is a darker entry into the Empire State universe.  It tells the story of Dr Josef Kleinthaler, chief psychiatrist at New York City's Bellevue Hospital and a strange young woman he becomes fascinated with, one Dorothea Stern, who claims to be from somewhere called...the Empire State?  With cameo appearances from Albert Einstein, a certain trio from L Frank Baum's classic Oz books and the War of the Worlds broadcast by Orson Welles, Harvey expertly plays up the paranoia of shadowy government agencies trying to cover up the existence of another world.  My favorite of the bunch!

"When Her Ship Came In" by Jeff Macfee deals with bootlegging and Prohibition in the Empire State; with nowhere to source its liquor from, the Empire State is dry as a bone and an desperate woman named  Pauline Tulley takes a bad situation and turns into her advantage, becoming a force to be reckoned with...but would her hard won position be enough to keep her safe from the reach of her criminal husband?  I enjoyed Macfee's story very much, and liked that Pauline was a woman who wasn't afraid to do what she had to survive in the strange new world of the Empire State; very entertaining!

This group of stories set in Empire State are all very different, yet very engaging takes on the world Adam Christopher has created.  Each author did their homework and stayed true to the tone and style of the original work and are worthy additions to Christopher's alternate New York.  I hope other, equally talented writers also take pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and continue to play in the Empire State.  After all, it's a big, wide world to play in...

Or is it?

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