Book Talk: 'Rogues' edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Book Talk: 'Rogues' edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

Alexander Wallace encounters a motley band of Rogues...
Han Solo. Indiana Jones. Jim Raynor. James Bond. Jack Sparrow. Lelouch vi Britannia. Captain Harlock. Peter Quill. Bruce Wayne. Lupin III. Eddie Cantrell. Peggy Carter. Ezio Auditore da Firenze.

Rogues. Scoundrels. Mountebanks. Ne’er-do-wells. Rebels without causes. People who take one look at conventional morality, say ‘to hell with it all,’ and go off living wild and free, going against the grain and the police and whoever else is in charge. Part of you knows there’s a reason why they’re outlaws, and sometimes a very good one.

But admit it.

You love them.

It's a fundamental truth that we love rogues so much because they transgress societal mores in a way that is so seductive and yet so out of reach for most of us. They are the snake tempting us to eat the forbidden fruit, one that we know is off-limits but so, so sweet. That’s the central idea of the creatively entitled Rogues, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, one of the best anthologies I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a good few).

Before we even get to the stories, I must sing the praises of the introduction. George R. R. Martin is hands-down the best writer of anthology introductions I have ever read (although he doesn’t have the best single introduction - that honor goes to the editors of a collection of Israeli speculative fiction I read some time ago). In those few pages at the beginning of the book, Martin gets to the heart of why we love these characters, and their utter ubiquity in all genres of fiction. They are there in science fiction and fantasy and mystery and romance and horror and historical fiction; wherever there are laws to be broken and norms to be transgressed, there will be the rogues who will dare live on the other side of it all.

Martin and Dozois collected an impressive bunch of writers to contribute stories. These include but are not limited to:
  • What Do You Do? By Gillian Flynn - one of the punchiest beginnings to any story I’ve ever read, and an utterly hilarious little tale.
  • Provenance by David Ball - the dangerous world of the rare art trade, through World War II and afterwards. This is the story that had me read all of Ball’s (small) oeuvre, and I encourage you to do the same.
  • Bad Brass by Bradley Denton - high schoolers stealing tubas and the substitute who tries to thwart them. This one has a great narrator.
  • Diamonds From Tequila by Walter Jon Williams - a movie shoot in Mexico gets involved with some shady dealings.
  • Now Showing by Connie Willis - about what the rogue as an archetype means to us as a society, with a well-deserved shellacking of corporate media in the process.
You will experience these tales and many more if you decide to pick up this rather hefty tome; it runs 832(!!!) pages. But it is one of those long books that you will feel enriched after reading, as you will see all the possibilities of such a beloved character type. You even get a followup to Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and a Game of Thrones story (one that, in a case of the franchise being painfully on brand, has incest in literally the first sentence). If you happen to stumble upon this anthology, I behoove you to go on the myriad journeys contained within those covers.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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