Ocean and All Its Devices

Ocean and All Its Devices

Illustration By Bob Eggleton

Dust jacket by Bob Eggleton

Fans of William Browning Spencer have been waiting more than ten years for this, his second collection of short stories. The Ocean and All Its Devices won't disappoint.

Spencer's first collection, The Return of Count Electric was acclaimed by reviewers in The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Cemetery Dance, Publishers Weekly and other magazines and newspapers. Science fiction legend Roger Zelazny, once introduced to Spencer's work, became a lifelong devotee. He wrote: "William Browning Spencer is one of those rare short story writers who comes along once in a generation -- like Saki, Collier, Sheckley -- and manages to combine all of the virtues within that restricted format."

The Ocean and All Its Devices collects some of Spencer's finest published work. Three of these stories appeared in "year's best" anthologies. Another, "The Death of the Novel," was a finalist for a Bram Stoker Award, while "The Essayist in the Wilderness" was on the final ballot for a World Fantasy Award.

In stories within:

  • The proprietor of a seaside resort puzzles over the yearly off-season pilgrimage of a curiously solemn couple and their fey child. ("The Ocean and All Its Devices")
  • A marriage made in a heaven of parallel worlds is tested by impossible luck, both good and bad. ("The Oddskeeper's Daughter")
  • A virtual reality addictions counselor is on the run with his zoned-out client, pursued by the relentless architects of a seductive virtual game called Apes and Angels. ("The Halfway House at the Heart of Darkness")
  • A young girl, who speaks only in lines of poetry culled from world literature, is poised between two universes while a social worker struggles to save her -- and, perhaps, doom a universe. ("Foster Child")
  • A circus magician races against time as the world threatens to end, not with a bang or a whimper, but with the flick of a switch. ("The Lights of Armageddon")

Here, at last, are these stories and other uncollected gems, the rest of William Browning Spencer's short fiction.

Limited: 750 signed numbered hardcover copies

Table of Contents:

  • The Ocean and All Its Devices
  • The Oddskeeper's Daughter
  • The Death of the Novel
  • Downloading Midnight
  • Your Faithful Servant
  • Foster Child
  • The Halfway House at the Heart of Darkness
  • The Lights of Armageddon
  • The Essayist in the Wilderness

From Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Pathos, poignance and gentle humor accent the nine stories in this stellar fantasy collection from Spencer (Zod Wallop), whose characters engage readers' sympathies through their efforts to accommodate the tectonic shifts of wildly unpredictable life experiences...Spencer includes an insightful introduction on the importance of fiction that the contents of his book bear out magnificently."

From Booklist
"Spencer's second story collection, after The Return of Count Electric and Other Stories (1993), is a slim but extraordinary volume of strange and haunting tales beautifully told...Spencer's stories are scintillating creations, disturbing and beautiful, and his introduction about the perils of being a short story writer is an illuminating diversion, too."

From Emerald City
"The stories are beautifully crafted, but you get the impression that life is cruel and fickle, and that it will catch up with us in the end. "Your Faithful Servant" speaks of one such end, in which Masters and Butlers are finally united in death. "The Foster Child" tells of a young girl who suffered brain damage when she almost drowned and can now communicate only by reciting poetry. She apparently knows all of the classics by heart, but has never read any of them.

Hope, however, is not entirely absent. In "The Halfway House at the Heart of Darkness" an addict cures herself by finding pleasure in helping others. In "The Lights of Armageddon" the characters almost save the world. Almost. And then, finally, we have "The Essayist in the Wilderness", a story that is both silly and horrific at the same time, a combination that Spencer manages so well."

From The Rocky Mountain News (Denver):
"...it will whet the appetites of readers who missed Spencer's earlier work, and it may be just the impetus the reclusive Texan needs to dust off his word processor and get to work on some weirdly original works of fiction."

Bob Eggleton
William Browning Spencer
195 pages
United States
Subterranean Press
Out of Print