Nineteen rising stars answer a challenge to write in a distinctive narrative frame native to East Asian literature, offering visions of alien contact, escape from repression, and exploits in alternate, virtual, and extraterrestrial worlds.
The editors begin their collection by loosely defining the four-stage form commonly transliterated as “Kishotenketsu" as storytelling in which conflict is just another element in the authorial toolbox rather than, as in Western conventions, central to plots and themes, inviting readers to see peacemongering as the common thread here. Though folding in violence either implied or explicit, most of the contributors work ingenious twists on this notion. Potential wars with aliens are headed off by new friends of different species who discover that the translation program their diplomat parents are using has been hacked (“In Other Words”) and also when a Pakistani village welcomes a pair of “Unexpected Guests” with tea. A transgender child crosses a personal “Threshold” by fighting off a bully at the boundary between this world and the magical Hidden Lands. Contrary to mythology, there is, it turns out, an afterlife “Beyond the Promised Land” for dead Viking heroes who weary of slaughtering one another over and over again in Valhalla. The stories range in length from short shorts on up, and if none of their authors are household names (yet), each is well-crafted and thought-provoking in both form and content.
Useful fare for creative-writing classes but more significantly, an above-average set of takes on a worthy theme. (Science fiction/fantasy short stories. 11-14)