A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to grab an Advanced Copy of the Short Story Anthology From The Indie Side featuring 12 incredible authors from all around the globe. I’ll admit to being friends with a few already – notably Hugh Howey, Peter Cawdron, Michael Bunker and Jason Gurley. I was drawn the collection by those stories, but discovered so much to love here. This will be one of those books I’ll come back to again and again.
In his Author’s Note, Peter Cawdron noted some important science fiction short stories, such as Asimov’s Nightfall and The Bicentennial Man and Philip K. Dick’s stories that inspired Minority Report and Total Recall. Stories like that were hugely influential to me as a teenager. I had a few collections of science fiction short stories from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, and frequently found myself returning to them over the years.
This could very well be a collection like that. Each of the stories is unique and presents their own distinct view on science fiction or fantasy (or in a few cases, both).
Along the way, I discovered some authors I hadn’t read previously – ones that I’ll definitely be paying attention to in the future – authors like Brian Spangler, Kate Danley, Sara Foster, Anne Frasier, Kev Heritage, Susan May, and Mel Hearse. I can’t find a lousy one in the bunch, honestly.
For me, though, three stories stood out. I loved all the individual tales, but the ones from Ernie Lindsey, Sara Foster, and Peter Cawdron really stuck with me and will ruminate in my mind for some time.
The story from Lindsey was so simple, yet was so relevant and so profound. “The Man With Two Legs,” is the title of Lindsey’s story, which is designed to catch the reader off-guard. Why wouldn’t a man have two legs? And thus begins a fantasy/sci-fi tale about a man who has two legs in a world where the general population has just one. One leg to keep them in line, to check their behavior, and to oppress opposition to the status quo. Those two legs represent so much, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. Suffice it to say, this story will stick with me.
Sara Foster had a short little yarn called “Cipher,” which tells the story of a woman out for a visit to her ailing father when a bomb goes off, leaving her separated from her family. The man she meets takes care of her as all the apocalyptic potentials raced through my head. Suddenly the story was over in an instant and the shocking end seared the story into my memory.
And Peter Cawdron’s “The Man Who Remembered Today” caps off the anthology. For an Australian, Mr. Cawdron does a phenomenal job of putting us inside of an Arab-American working as a paramedic in New York City when terrorists are striking all around him. The writing is top-notch and crisp, not hesitating from the plot for a second, as Kareem (the aforementioned paramedic) cannot remember yesterday, only the events of today. Events that haven’t happened yet. Cawdron expertly follows Kareem throughout his day, putting us on a collision course with an epic conclusion.
Oh…did I forget to mention these are all independent authors? I suppose the title may have given it away, but the writing sure didn’t. This is up there was any of the short stories I would have devoured as a teenager and continue to love today. Just because the word “indie” is slapped in front of someone’s title doesn’t alter the fact they are phenomenally talented at what they do.
Pick this collection up. Read it. Pick and choose if you like. At the most, the longest story will take a little over half an hour. Some will take a few minutes. All are worthy of your time.