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Claude Lalumiere's Fantastic Fiction
Swift Thoughts

by George Zebrowski

(Golden Gryphon Press, $24.95, 311 pages, hardcover; 2002.)

Author introductions and afterwords can backfire.

When well done, they provide new insight into a writer or cover scanthe writer's work. Or they can entertain, or provide context. But one thing authors should never do when discussing their own work is brag. They should never try too hard to convince their readers about the greatness of their literary genius. Rather, they should let the fiction do the talking.

A case in point is George Zebrowski's Swift Thoughts, a collection of recent and classic science-fiction stories. Zebrowski is an interesting writer who obviously puts a lot of thought behind his stories, most of which are dense, idea-packed thought experiments.

Not all of these stories are successful -- some of them are a bit too dry to involve the reader, but others are quite good, especially when Zebrowski unfurls his sardonic wit, for example, in "The Word Sweep" and "Stooges". At their weakest, Zebrowski's stories reveal an unquestioned adherence to the scientific worldview of "progress" and anthropocentrism that reduces his intellectual enterprise to blind propaganda.

For example, the story "In the Distance, and Ahead in Time", which purports to champion
respect of other lifeforms, limits its scope to humanlike sentience and dismisses other animals as so much biological matter.

Unfortunately, after each story, Zebrowski describes all the clever and intelligent things he did in the story we just read, just to make sure readers don't overlook how intelligent and clever he is. In addition, he quotes at length friends and reviewers who have hyperbolically praised these stories. It's all very embarrassing, condescending, and tasteless.

If the writer himself doesn't believe his stories are strong enough to convince without argument, why should we?

Originally published The Montreal Gazette,
Saturday, 13 July 2002.

Claude Lalumière's Fantastic Fiction is a series of
capsule reviews first published in the Saturday Books
section of The Montreal Gazette.

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