Tesseracts 19: Superhero Universe – Claude Lalumière and Mark Shainblum [Ed.], (2016)

Tesseracts 19It was only three years ago that we were treated to an anthology of short stories that had as a central theme Canadian superheroes. Masked Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories (Tyche books)

was a long overdue collection that was right up my alley and I anxiously awaited its release. I was lucky enough to have attended the Ottawa book  launch where I met a number of the authors and was entertained to readings of select passages and stories. Alas, when I finally got around to completing it I was too busy to give it a review it rightly deserved and once some time had gone by the opportunity to do a proper write up had passed.

Imagine my surprise in learning that Tesseracts 19, the annual collection of Canadian speculative fiction was going to be superhero themed. More Canadian superheroes and a chance for redemption. Edited by Claude Lalumière (who also co-edited Masked Mosaic) and Mark Shainblum, this collection runs the gamut of perspectives from caped defenders to vigilante guardians, and a few that fall in between the spectrum of the moral curtain.

My hands down favorites was  Pssst! Have you heard… The Rumur by D.K.Latta, a story in which each chapter is written from the point of view of a different character, each relating the events leading up to a mob hit and the following strange events that lead to the mobster’s demise. The story itself must be pieced together by the reader, beginning by reading Tony “Spats” DeMulder’s account of being publicly embarrassed by actor Ken Anton and then piecing together the accounts leading up to and beyond the mysterious death of the actor. We get slices from Spat’s moll, a detective, a grocer who regularly gets shaken down, a reporter, Spat’s lawyer and finally his doctor. The story that unfolds as narrated by each of the tongue-in-cheek stereotypes describes Spat’s fallout with his number one moneyman and hitman, the mysterious “Book” and how that fallout is precipitated by a pulpish, shadow-like figure messing with various aspects of Spat’s operations.

Canadian fans of indie comics will be pleased to hear that Bernie Mireault has resurrected his underground comic hero The Jam in prose form with The Jam: A Secret Bowman. As the title suggests, our hero stumbles across a mysterious bowman and ends up being a suspect himself under the knuckles of an attention seeking police officer. I wish the story went a little deeper with the Jam’s prey, but it was a pleasure having him back in any case.

Another bizarre – although somewhat questionable guideline entry – Crusher and Typhoon by Brent Nichols, doles out an honest to goodness old west, Kung Fu story. Reminiscent of the old Wild Wild West TV show, it’s a symbiotic friendship between a one time martial arts master and an impaired steampunk inventor. Hardly super hero fare and with only a reference to the Canadian Pacific Railroad, the relationship to the anthology’s theme is tenuous at best but the story was endearing enough that it did not matter.

The Rise and Fall of Captain Stupendous , by P.E. Bolivar is the unveiling of a superhero as a lesson that you can’t believe everything you read. A tangled story of deceit, love and betrayal, which gives rise to a super villainesses and we get a front seat in the transition. We’re reminded that the world is not all black or white and there is always another side to a coin.

Another villain oriented story was Jason Sharp‘s Black Sheep where the protagonist manifests Magneto like powers but instead of being able to control metal, water is the substance of manipulation. Not an action story at all but an introspective personal quest that the villain pursues after a prison break.

Friday nights at the Hemingway is a short story by Arun Jiwa that blends superhero history in a local watering hole the likes of Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon that answers the question “Where have all the heroes gone?”

In a world populated by super hero mutants that need medical attention and mending, where do they go for healing and convalescence? Find out from the point of view of a first day medical recruit at secret mutant superhero hospital in Corey Redekop’s SuPER.

Exhibiting both amusing stories with serious fare the overall collection is highly satisfying with only a few clunkers that are easily dismissed by the other entertaining ones. And in all, a highly recommended collection made all the more interesting to Canadian readers who will recognize a few people, places and events.

If you want a taste of what’s in the book the publishers have created a sampler you can read online which basically contains the first 2 pages of each story. Give it a try here:

http://edgewebsite.com/books/tess19/downloads/SuperheroUniverse-Tesseracts19-Sampler.pdf

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