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Bewildering Stories

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.

Best wishes,
Ellen Crosby

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...

Don Webb
Managing Editor
Bewildering Stories

Copyright © 2009 by Ellen Crosby and
Bewildering Stories

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