Cover Illustration by Francois Vaillancourt.
Introduction by Elizabeth Bear
About the Book:
For more than thirty years, Chaz Brenchley has been one of Great Britain’s most distinguished—and uncategorizable—writers of speculative fiction. His award-winning short stories move with deceptive ease from one genre to another, offering an astonishingly varied array of sheer narrative pleasures. While much of his work may be unfamiliar to American readers, the appearance of this generous, career-spanning volume should do much to change all that.
The Best of Chaz Brenchley contains more than thirty stories from the author’s vast fictional archive, and each one of them is a polished, unexpected gem. Together, they encompass an impressive range of themes, subjects and settings, including: a drinking establishment frequented by the pilots who navigate the intricacies of n-space; a hazardous—and haunted—stretch of rocks off the British coastline known as the Silences; a post-World War I Europe still awash in grief and an abiding sense of loss; a terminal known as the Tower of Souls, from which earthbound humans can take flight; British colonialism both in 19th century Cairo and on Mars; and much, much more.
The stories gathered here are consistently readable, thoroughly imagined and written in a voice that is distinctive and instantly recognizable. But they never lose sight of the universal human concerns that lie at their center: guilt, loneliness, unfulfilled longings, and the inevitable threat of encroaching mortality. This magisterial collection offers all these things in generous measure, and the result is a book that readers have needed for a very long time, whether they know it or not. The Best of Chaz Brenchley is something truly special. Open it up at any point and find out for yourself.
Table of Contents:
- Introduction by Elizabeth Bear
- Uncanny Valley
- In Skander, For A Boy
- The Burial of Sir John Mawe at Cassini
- The Keys to D’Espérance
- White Tea for The Tillerman
- Ashes to Ashes
- I Am Death’s Brother
- Luke, Homeward Angel
- Every Day A Little Death
- Another Chart of The Silences
- Keep The Aspidochelone Floating
- From Alice to Everywhere, With Love
- Live at Maly’s
- Going The Jerusalem Mile
- Dragon Kings Play Songs of Love
- For Kicks
- Parting Shots
- A Fold In The Heart
- Winter Journey
- Thermodynamics and/or The Remittance Men
- A Terrible Prospect of Bridges
- White Skies
- When Johnny Comes Marching Home
- Where It Roots, How It Fruits
- 2 Pi To Live
- Quinquereme of Nineveh
- The Astrakhan, The Homburg and The Red Red Coal
- The Insolence of Candles Against The Light’s Dying
- Story Notes
From Publishers Weekly (Starred Review):
“These 32 superior stories from Lambda Award winner Brenchley (Bitter Waters) represent a tiny fraction of the gifted, prolific author’s output, but nevertheless showcase his ability to craft impactful shorts… Every entry enhances creative plots and plausible characterizations with outstanding writing. This sampler of Brenchley’s work makes clear his mastery.”
From Paul di Filippo, Locus Online:
“Emerging from this rich panoply of narratives, so varied and unpredictable, the reader can assert some commonalities across the wide spectrum of Brenchley’s fiction. First is the sheer elegance of his prose. There’s not a word extra or adrift in these tales, and the sentences frequently take off into poetic stratospheres. Second, there’s always a distinctive voice at play, and not just in the first-person narratives. It’s often a voice that is unreliable, tricky, and wounded, holding back information or even unable to discuss the most hurtful topics. Third, Brenchley can conjure up both mundane and exotic settings vividly with a minimum of brushstrokes. And finally, while each tale has a startling animating idea or conceit at its core, these novums are never dominant, but are instead just the vehicles for character development and plot and emotional wow.”
From Strange Horizons:
“Everything in All the Wrong Order: The Best of Chaz Brenchley, Subterranean Press’s massive short story collection (clocking in at 568 pages), delivers on its titular promise. While determining ‘the best’ of an author’s oeuvre is always going to be subjective, there’s sure to be something here to satisfy every Brenchley fan. Bouncing seamlessly between—and sometimes blending—genres, the thirty-one stories included in this volume span the length of Brenchley’s prodigious career. Throughout, Brenchley tackles the complicated overlap between love (platonic, romantic, and sexual) and loss (physical, emotional, and spiritual), in stories that are at once intimate and universal.”
So this is how it goes. How it went. How it will have gone. Something. Language is as slippery as meaning is as slippery as time; we have nothing to hold on to but each other.
It’ll be a hard thing to look back on, when we must.
IN SKANDER, FOR A BOY
Skander: city of exiles, assassins, plotters and panders and whores. City of poets, of lovers, of embassies, liars of every hue.
Skander sits on every man’s horizon. I gazed at it in contempt, where it lay like a smear of lit charcoal spilled at the sea’s edge; I called for greater effort on the oars. These tideless waters had nothing to offer. Our own work would bring us in, see our task complete and take us home again. Untainted, if we were hard and fast.
THE BURIAL OF SIR JOHN MAWE AT CASSINI
Never did a man hanged see such a funeral. Old Cobb leaned on his spade to watch the barges come down the canal in caravan, in smoky procession, each decked out with black solemnity. Crowds lined the bank, quality and commoners all intermingled, while open carriages and charabancs blocked the roadways behind. Gentlemen and coolies removed their hats as the cortège steamed slowly by; ladies bowed their heads, while their maids dropped a dutiful curtsey. Soldiers saluted, officers and troops together. They were not—quite—a formal muster, but a great many had chosen to turn out in full parade dress today, a scarlet glory against the green.
WHITE TEA FOR THE TILLERMAN
Terrible as an army with banners undoubtedly is, a single man can be worse. A quiet man, a sober man, a man with drab clothes and delicate manners. He has passed the gates; he is within the walls; he is within the palace, at the throne’s foot, where she must serve him tea and listen to his embassy.
The army is at his back, at his beck if he should call for it. Its banners are in his eyes. He is the blade at her throat, unless he is in her heart.
KEEP THE ASPIDOCHELONE FLOATING
“Well, then,” she said softly, menacingly. “Give me one good reason—one—not to kill you. Here and now.”
I don’t take prisoners, she was saying, I don’t collect ransoms. The living are too much trouble.
There were heavy splashes from astern, as the captain—the former captain—and his officers went overboard. No trouble at all.
I said, “There’s only one ocean. One. All the waters of the world, all intermingled, all talkingto each other, and they’re under us right here, right now. Listening to you. Weighing you, weighing me. Is that good enough? Big enough?”
“It should be,” she said. High sun glinted off the pocked blade of her cutlass. Another splash came from aft; I didn’t look around. Down below, someone screamed: thin and hoarse, I thought it was a man. Or had been.
When you’re burying a man, you can give a lot of time to what he wears, how he looks, what he takes with him. That last, especially. You don’t have to get all Ancient Egyptian on his ass, he’s probably not Tutankhamun, but—well, it’s a thing. You can do it.
There is nothing quite so wicked as a young girl catching first sight of her womanhood to come. I know this to be true. I had it from my mother.
In other matters, I am less certain. Less certain now. Stories shift in the telling. Narrative is no man’s land; we share no common ground. Here, though, I may—I must!—hold fast. Otherwise…
No. There is no otherwise. There cannot be. This is the tale of one girl’s wickedness, and nothing more.
THE INSOLENCE OF CANDLES AGAINST THE LIGHT’S DYING
“God, that’s sad,” Quin said, staring at the wall.
He didn’t mean it nicely. Nice wasn’t a thing that he did much any more; the thinner his voice became, the sharper it thrust. And it wasn’t only his voice. The thinner he got all over, the edgier his relationship with the world. A razor-blade scratching down a mirror, was Quin in that last year we had together: doing no real damage—what could he hurt, after all? Not the image, certainly, and not the reality either, razors can’t score glass—but trying hard none the less.
- François Vaillancourt
- Chaz Brenchley
- 679 pages
- eBook Edition