Albert E. Cowdrey’s Revelation & Other Tales of Fantascience includes an assortment of stories by the author dating from the year 2000 up to 2015. They are varied in style and subject matter, yet each includes definite style familiar to the author’s work. A delightful introduction by Gordon Van Gelder helps to make clear the place Cowdrey holds in science fiction, reflecting the myriad different aspects of it and influences held. It is a useful piece thay sets the reader up for the contents.
“Revelation” is a story with a sense of humor. A creative writing teacher learns that his friend, a therapist, has a patient who has developed detailed theories that the earth is an egg. It is not a new premise, for celestial bodies in general or the planet Earth in particular, yet the expression of it is clever in the tale as are the amusing uses of the writing process.
The latter is an interesting element, as while it was clear that this idea is ridiculous to most people, a therapist finds different ways of looking at such ideas in comparison to a Freudien psychologist. The use of certain literary tool is often derided, and while they are often misused it becomes quite effective here. Foreshadowing has a particularly clever part to play in this tale, and a slow twist to the storytelling is most entertaining.
“The Woman in the Moon” is a delightful story that spends much of its time lampooning academia. People studying literature do not read, and both plagiarism and affairs are the natural course. It is simple, then, to put a combined effort towards the look at a lost civilization from the moon, and an effort to discover it.
The ideas of lost love, academic honesty, and the drive for success are each major elements of this story. Like “Revelation” there is an element of writing involved, yet the sin of a writer writing about a writer is a hazard of using the academic setting. A woman dies in a way that motivates a man in this piece, yet calling it grudging would suggest one was supposed to sympathise with the male lead. Given the negative stereotypes of academics they represent, one cannot see this as a traditional use of such storytelling tools.
The cover is a delightful piece of art by Corey and Catska Ench which harkens back to older bits of science fiction and fantasy without seeming redundant or old fashioned. They combine ancient imagery and high technology to further illustrate Cowdrey’s style, as a good cover should.
Overall this volume includes an excellent sampling of Albert E. Cowdrey’s work. Cowdrey has become a mainstay of the Magazine of Science Fiction & Fantasy, and the work within this book well illustrates why. He can be clever and playful, without often feeling downright like parody. To fans of that magazine, this volume would be most enjoyable, and a nice chance to see the work of the author given a gorgeous packaging. To fans of sf and fantasy in general, this is excellent volume with celebrated stories, many of which prove to have an excellent sense of humor.
(PS Publishing, 2021)