Okay, so this book has been on my shelf for a while and I’ve just gotten around to reading it. I picked it up at a fantasy book store. You know, the kind of store that sells fantasy novels, board games and Dungeons and Dragons modules.
The book is Once Upon a Galaxy. It’s a science fiction anthology edited by Wil McCarthy with a whole host of contributors, published in 2002.
Now, if you’ve been around Fairy Tale Fandom for a while, you know I have a soft spot for sci-fi fairy tale retellings. So, how does Once Upon a Galaxy stack up? It’s kind of a mixed bag, really.
There are some stories in here that I really like. “Ailoura” by Paul Di Filippo is a really solid sci-fi take on “Puss in Boots”. “Nanite, Star Bright” by Tanya Huff is a neat twist on “The Shoemaker and the Elves”. One of my favorites is “The Control Device”, which is basically “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp” if Aladdin was an Imperial pilot from Star Wars (or something similar) hiding out from the new regime. Others weren’t so great. “The Nightingale” and “The Emperor’s Revenge” were Andersen-derived stories that just seemed to drag on and on. Another story, “He Died that Day, In Thirty Years” didn’t really seem to even have anything to do with fairy tales. I certainly couldn’t pick out any parallels or motifs. Don’t get me wrong, some of them had some good ideas. “The Goldilocks Problem” outlined how conditions on a planet need to be “just right” in order to support life. However, it was more of an interesting science lesson than an interesting story. “Sleeping Beauty” by Bruce Holland Rogers deals with the question of how much everything would change while someone was under a sleeping curse, just set on a much more cosmic scale.
To tell the truth though, I’m kind of okay with this. I’d rather see interesting new ideas that don’t quite pan out than old, tired ideas that don’t pan out. In a perfect world, we’d have good ideas that work out swimmingly. But I’d rather not ask for the moon if I can help it.
However, maybe the stories being a mixed bag is just something you have to expect with multiple author anthologies. Outside of literature, you don’t see anthologies much anymore. Not in movies or television or comic books. Maybe varying quality is one of the reasons why.
I’m not going to tell you to stay away from this book. However, I’m not going to tell you to seek it out either. I told you what I thought and my opinions are purely my own (though I’ve gotten rather good at expressing them). If you do read it, maybe you’ll see something in them that I didn’t.