Sue Burke (mount_oregano) wrote,
Sue Burke
mount_oregano

Manufacturers of Dreams 2006

There's one story in this book I wish I hadn't read.

This year's "best of" anthology, Fabricantes de Sueños 2006 (Manufacturers of Dreams), published by the Spanish Association for Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, http://www.aefcft.com/publi/fabric.htm, provides a good but not perfect glimpse of the breadth of Spanish-language genre works and a fair sample of its top authors.

Selections were made by the Bilbao Fantastic Literature Discussion Circle, a 12-year-old club of fans who meet every month, and who volunteered to read every short story originally published in Spanish during the year that they could get their hands on. If anything, as they say in their introduction, "we have very varied criteria and tastes." I only wish their had been a bit of biography for the authors to help orient new readers. The stories (translations of titles mine):

The Fifth Law, by Elia Barceló, one of Spain's accomplished writers, about the curator of the nearly forgotten Isaac Asimov Museum of Modern Invention. Though vividly written, it succumbs in the end to despair, which always strikes me as the easy way out of a story.

The Dark Angel, by Luisa María García Velasco, a classic horror story that ends with not one but three fast plot twists.

The Debtor, by Sergio Gaut vel Hartman, a leading Argentinian writer. As strange as any Borges tale but far weirder. Agents come to collect a man's debt, first tearing off his ears, each time taking a bit more, eventually leaving just a brain, and then the Powers That Be make a final offer. A surrealistic and oddly lighthearted fable for our time whose meaning deserves a beer or two to discuss fully.

Ambrosia, by Yoss, a talented Cuban writer. A space explorer is shipwrecked on a savage planet and is befriended by a self-abnegating giant slug. Four centuries later, a rescue ship arrives, and both are still alive. Thought-provoking, if a little unfocused.

The Forgotten by God, by Antonio Cebrián. A rather telly story about the final judgment that could have been an intelligent answer to the "Left Behind" series, but it ends weakly.

Don't Look at Me, by Gabriel Mérida, a science fiction hard-boiled detective murder mystery set in a laboratory where human replacement organs are grown. The tense story successfully packs a lot into a just few pages and ends with a horrifying twist.

The Invariant CHON, by Victor Conde. A complex tale about space aliens, genetic engineering, slavery, and a star going nova, with heaping helpings of techno-speak and a heavy-handed message. It would make a good Hollywood movie.

The Alexandria Library, by Carlos Abraham. A scholar in colonial Peru finds an ancient artifact that transports him to a life in a lost civilization -- very much like an episode of Star Trek involving Captain Picard, and no more transcendent, though well written.

Final, by Ezequiel Dellutri, a lowlife thief spends his last night enjoying drugs, murder, and sex. Fast paced but actually not very science fictional.

Ulysses, by José Antonio Fuentes Sanz, involves a robot soldier who, over its years of fighting, has grown more and more human -- but not quite. More than that would be a spoiler to a fine story that adds new life to a familiar-seeming concept.

Dead Time, by José Ángel Menéndez Lucas, about a clock that stops time, would have made a great Twilight Zone episode.

The Treason of Judas, by Joaquín Revuelta. At first, it seems like a futuristic tale vaguely like Dick's "Johnny Mnemonic," but the end offers one surprise after another. Overall, it may be a bit long, but it ends at the exact right place.

And, the story I wish I hadn't read, but I mean that as a compliment:

Sushi, by Marc Rodríguez Soto, a three-page horror story. A man awakes and wonders if his wife is breathing. Maybe she choked to death during the night on a bit of food. . . . A simple story, deftly handled, that truly terrified. Now, when I wake up and my husband is snoring, I feel comforted. I know he's not dead.

In summary: many good stories, but is there something culturally Spanish about them? Not especially, and that's the one thing missing from this anthology, and what makes it a good but not complete sample of what's being written in Spanish. Because those stories are out there, stories that no one but a Spaniard or Latin American could have written.

Tags: science fiction, spanish
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