The Critics’ Corner
Grove Koger, “How Is the Empire?”
by Ellen Crosby
Where some authors belabor a revisionist historical fantasy with well-researched ancillary details in an attempt to convince the reader, Mr. Koger conveys the essence of his imagined world in — what? — a thousand words or so. Brilliant!
A story like this gains weight and interest as much from what is omitted as from what is explicit. I look forward to reading more from him.
Thank you, Ellen. We value positive feedback; it’s good for contributors’ morale and ours, too, here at Bewildering Stories. You also make an important point: what’s left unsaid can be as important as what is said.
I like alternate history, but not for its own sake: the story itself must be convincing, and a wealth of research won’t make up for it if I don’t care about the characters or don’t find them credible. “How Is the Empire?” passes the test.
The author doesn’t have to explain the premise of an alternate-history WW2 gone disastrously wrong; the theme is familiar enough in mainstream fiction. Rather, the author goes straight for the objective: what the alternate history means. And the ending draws in readers with a suggestive, ambiguous question.
Within our flash-fiction limit of 1,000 words, “How Is the Empire?” paints in miniature a mirror image of what Ward Moore accomplishes in his classic novel Bring the Jubilee (reviewed in issue 23). And that brings us back to what you were saying...
Copyright © 2009 by Ellen Crosby and