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The Silver Gryphon

edited by Gary Turner and Marty Halpern

(Golden Gryphon Press, $27.95, 330 pages, hardback; 2003.)

To celebrate Golden Gryphon Press's 25th book, the editors brought together those cover scanwho had contributed to the previous 24 and asked them "to write a story that best defines them as a writer". And that is the limit to "theme" in this thoroughly enjoyable anthology. In fact, that limit may be one of the contributing factors to the anthology's success (that, and the high-calibre names behind the stories).

In an effort to make an anthology stand out among the rest, editors have put together more and more themed anthologies, asking writers to work within some narrow parameters instead of letting the writers offer up their best stories to date. It works for sales, of course, otherwise it wouldn't be done; however, it all tends to make for uneven anthologies. The books become like magazines -- a few stories you like, a few you don't, and a few where you can't get beyond paragraph one. In the long run, the glut of themed anthologies just makes readers not enjoy anthologies any more.

And this is where The Silver Gryphon shines. You don't know what the next story will bring. It might be science fiction. It might be a ghost story. All you know for sure is that it won't be another twist on whatever the theme-of-the-month happened to be.

All the stories are good, and some are worthy of awards. But we should expect no less from authors such as Geoffrey A. Landis, Paul Di Filippo, Robert Reed, Lucius Shepard, and the sf short-story maestro James Patrick Kelly, to name just a few.

Grab their attention! So the mantra goes, and the editors listen. The opening piece, "Mother" by James Patrick Kelly, grabs with a stranglehold. It utilizes many of short-story writing's strengths, creating a cock-eyed view in which to experience the tale. It has an ultra-intense, personal viewpoint and an untrustworthy protagonist -- two aspects that work with beauty in a short story but often fall apart in a novel.

"The Haw River Trolley" by Andy Duncan represents the weird tale, with a strange romance and the stealing of a ghost trolley. It works well yet makes me want more information. I'm so full of questions at the end! Still, the piece keeps you going and the ambiguity doesn't detract one iota from the overall enjoyment.

Geoffrey A. Landis provides "The Time-Travel Heart", a fun take on Poe's "Tell-Tale Heart" and an equally fun take on time-travel stories. "An Innocent Presumption" by Kevin J. Anderson starts rather blandly but rises to the anthology's quality with a tale of repeated revenge through the wonders of time-travel and parallel universes. The work deserves a longer treatment, though, in order to gain the emotional depth needed for this emotionally heavy story.

There is a terrific Vietnam story, an alternate history dealing with the Gore/Bush election, and ... I could go on and on, but there's no need. All the stories are worth reading. In fact, budding short-story writers of any genre ought to consider this book required reading. The short story is one of the most difficult types of fiction to pull off, and though not every piece in The Silver Gryphon succeeds one hundred per cent, each one displays the touch of an experienced hand.

The only caution I think worth mentioning is simply to avoid reading the introduction until you have completed the book. The introduction outlines all the stories and ends up spoiling a few by giving too much detail (something I've tried very hard not to do in this review).

All in all, Golden Gryphon Press proves it has been worth the previous 24 books. They have consistently put out quality work that deserves readers' attention. The Silver Gryphon is no exception.

Review by Stuart Jaffe.

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