The deck really was stacked against Desirina Boskovich. Though her short stories Heaven is a Place on Planet X and To Wrestle Not Against Flesh and Blood are both terrific fun, there’s really no way she could win against an Earthsea story by Ursula K. LeGuin. Not while I am the judge.
I’ve been pairing sets of short stories against each other in a tournament of books sort of way this year. It’s been a fun way for me to check off some of the short story anthologies in my TBR stack, in keeping with The TBR Triple Dog Dare. For this round, I paired science fiction against fantasy and fantasy won.
Though to give full credit where full credit is due, Ms. Boskovich had me thinking about breaking with The TBR Dare so I could read the final story. Ms. Boskovich’s stories are part of The Apocalypse Trilogy of books edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey. They are The End is Nigh, The End is Now and The End has Come. The editors invited authors to contribute stories for one volume or to contribute a set of three stories one for each. One about the approaching end of the world, one about what happens when the world ends and a final one about after the end of the world. I have the first two and I wish I had the third one so I could finish Ms. Boskovich’s set of stories. I’ll have to wait for April 1.
Her idea is pretty good. In the first story, a race of aliens arrives on earth with the stated intention of taking all of humanity to their home planet which is a paradise. They have one condition, that everyone on earth continue on with their lives as though nothing has changed for several weeks. To make sure nobody does anything out of character, the aliens select a group of humans to become enforcers, vaporizing anyone who does something they would not normally do whether it be getting married, taking a trip, or giving up drinking. Many people are so tempted to do what they’ve always wanted, check off that bucket list before everyone leaves for paradise, so the enforcers are quite busy. The two the story is about figure they will probably eliminate at least 10% of the population.
They hesitate to wonder if that’s what the aliens really want.
Okay, it’s not great literature, but it was fun reading and I would like to find out what happens in the final story.
But these two were up against Ursula K. LeGuin’s short story On the High Marsh from her collection Tales of Earthsea. I don’t know why everyone isn’t reading and re-reading the Earthsea books. I’ve been a big fan since I was in middle school and more-or-less stumbled on A Wizard of Earthsea which I read because the cover was just so cool. I read all of the first trilogy and have kept up with the subsequent books though I often feel like I’m the only one out here reading them. Sometimes I think Ms. LeGuin is writing them just for me; I never seem to see mention of them anywhere on the book blogs.
The Earthsea books are about wizards and other workers of magic. They put knowledge and learning over strength and prowess. To become powerful in Earthsea spend more time alone in your library studying your books. I confess, this fantasy has a lot of appeal for me—the wizard living alone on an isolated island, a small stone house overlooking a sea, maybe some animals for company, lots of time to read and re-read. The adventure comes to the wizard or the wizards heads out in his boat to find adventure, usually relying on his own knowledge to succeed. I know this isolated house with the great library would become very boring very quickly in reality, but it’s a great fantasy, one I would expect more book lovers to indulge in, but I think it’s just me most of the time.
Tales from Earthsea is a bit uneven, but this story was right up my ally. Small inn on an isolated island, a wizard escaping his past arrives to cure the local livestock of a mysterious illness, he becomes attached to the inn keeper, a rival wizard arrives next to bring the first to justice. Excellent characters, setting, writing. Maybe the plot is a bit sparse, but I don’t care. I’d love to visit Earthsea for real, I settle for a tale or two.
Victory goes to Ursula K. LeGuin. I’ve one more story left in Tales from Earthsea so she advances to the next round.
But Ms. Boskovich, if you stumble upon this little blog, more please.