The ED SF Project

The Ellen Datlow/SCI FICTION Project, that is. We're showing the love for five and a half years of great short fiction, and we need your help! We've got over 300 stories to cover, so if you're a person who loves short speculative fiction, we want you. Go here to read the list and add your voice.

Friday, December 23, 2005

"The War of the Worlds" by James P. Blaylock: An Appreciation by Robert Burke Richardson

The first SCI FICTION story I read--and one of the first short stories I ever read, period (not counting the terrible ones they force you to read in school)--was James Blaylock's "The War of the Worlds." Not only did this story introduce me to the world of SCI FICTION (itself a brand new entity at the time) and all that it would eventually entail, but it also introduced me to Mr. Blaylock's fiction, a door I am very happy to have opened.

I read "The War of the Worlds" before developing a critical vocabulary for discussing fiction, and the unexpressed joy I find in it may be part of why it still lives so vividly in my mind after all these years--it's not a story I think about or remember, but one which I relive. I haven't so much as glanced at the story again, but I can watch pretty much the whole thing in my head (Blaylock's cinematic writing probably helps a lot here, too). I'm especially fond of the scene where the couple is loading the car for a desperate escape and, once it gets full, each starts dumping the other's things on the sidewalk to make room for their own.

The ending was something I absolutely did not expect, and I've had a certain fondness ever since for stories that are perhaps mainstream in nature, but told with a sensibility very much in tune with genre expectations. Inexperienced reader that I was, I didn't know that was something you could even do, and Blaylock opened
my eyes to it.

"War of the Worlds" was the first of many SCI FICTION stories to expand the horizons for me of what a story could be, and the first of many to introduce me to an author I might not otherwise have met. Many, many thanks!

Link to story


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