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Liam Garcia
Liam Garcia

I Wish - R.Kelly

[R.Kelly]Little son is looking at me like, "Where is my daddy?"And your 13-year old daughter is mad 'cause she understandsPromised your mama I'd take care of the familyBut she's so hurt, she turns away my helping handsDamn, I wish your ass was here, my niggaTo grow that gray beard and smoke that cigar, my niggaAnd we would talk about you getting up out this gameAnd you would tell me how it keeps calling you name(We used to ride-ride-ride)Never afraid to (Die-die-die)But sometimes we (Cry-cry-cry)Asking the Lord (Why-why-why)They're tearing down these projectsWe were homies for like 20 thug yearsSat in church and cried the same thug tearsYou remember when Vibe World PremierHow we used to share the same old gearAnd remember when you and me would sayWe'd get up out this hood and everything would be okay(It's all good now) My niggaWe out the hood nowIt's so easy for folks to say, "Rob, just live on"When I'm dying every second that you're goneNevertheless I try my best to be strongHoping you said your prayers before you went on homeWhen we stood on these blocks and just shot the breezeWe'd slapbox dead in the middle of streetsAnd if a fight broke out, you would take up for meYou're all I have left of these ghetto memories

I Wish - R.Kelly

[Boo]Uh, uh, yo dog, I can't explain how I miss youWe stayed together, copping cane, poppin pistolsI miss you mostPutting the doo rag over your bean headEven out the hood on the scene you brag (whoa)Coming up off the fiends for bagsRunning up out the cleaners, dragYou was the closest nigga I hadLook how we stayed acesHustled, made big facesI wish we could trade placesFuck giving you ice, I'd rather give you lifeAnd the things that I had, I'd give you twice (Oh yeah)[Gotti]So what the deal, my nigga, I know you holding it downIf you could see me you would say I'm talking soft right nowBut it's hard for me to say when I'ma see you againAnd I know it's fucked up, I gotta talk through this penBut you died for the love of the doughThe love of the block, 16 you was running the spotBoy, your mama used to hate how we stood on the curbHanging with wild thug niggas, smoking the herbI'm gonna keep pouring this liquor and that's my wordThis here is for my niggas that be flipping them birdsWord up!

Modeled after the Best American Short Stories anthologies, Best American Fantasy (BAF) has a series editor, Matthew Cheney, and will have different guest editors for each volume after the second, with Jeff VanderMeer & Ann VanderMeer serving for the first two. Judging from this first volume, the focus is "fantasy" in a quite different sense than typical genre fantasy, or from what you would find in the annual anthologies from Datlow/Link & Grant, Horton, or Hartwell & Cramer. The first indicator is how few of the contributors are familiar — only five or six recognizable names from fantasy (or SF), with a couple others of literary notoriety. Similarly, the stories are almost all from non-genre sources. Only one is from an SF magazine (Analog, ironically enough); two are from webzine Strange Horizons; and one each from an anthology and collection. Of the other sources, a few are high profile — The New Yorker, McSweeney's, Zoetrope — while the balance are presumably small-press literary journals, with names like The Georgia Review, The Mississippi Review, Alaska Quarterly, Oxford American, Tin House, and Pendeldyboz. So what is going on here? In his preface, Cheney cites Judith Merril's best-of-the-year anthologies from the '50s and '60s, which casually mixed together stories by Ballard and Delany and Leiber with others by Barthelme, Grass, and Updike. Just as Merril found SF/fantasy values in writers not confined to the genre, so have the editors of BAF. The difference is, perhaps, that Cheney and the VanderMeers virtually ignore genre fantasy, to a far greater extent than Merril ignored genre fantasy and SF. Still, with at least three other annual anthologies covering genre fantasy to one extent or another, another is hardly needed; though one could quibble with the implied claims of the title, this book offers a fresh perspective on what fantasy is, not to mention a couple dozen writers likely unfamiliar to genre readers.This is not to say the fresh perspective is consistently rewarding. It's a truism, what a reader gets out of a book depends a lot on what the reader brings to it — the set of reading protocols the reader is able or willing to apply. To generalize, most of the stories in this book are fantasy in a literary, subjective way, rather than fantasy in a literal way; they are not stories that are "really" about some supernatural event or otherworldy place, the way most genre fantasy is; they are stories in which the fantasy element is a subjective interpretation, or a metaphor, or a character's whimsical daydream, or a playful literary conceit. (Of the 29 stories in the book, 19 of them are written in the first person.) My genre-reader protocols find a distressing lack of seriousness in many of the stories; you're being toyed with, not participating in a thought experiment about the actual consequences to real people of something that's not possible in our world but that happens anyway.The book's opening story, "A Hard Truth About Waste Management" by Sumanth Prabhaker, is about a family that, to avoid high trash container fees, decides to flush all their trash down the toilet. It becomes a twice-a-day ritual, until a creature emerges from the toilet to take revenge. The story whimsically conflates urban legends about crocodiles in sewers with a down to earth lesson about personal responsibility; but it's slight. Eric Roe's "The Stolen Father" tells how the narrator's father comes back from the "edge of the world" after 25 years. A sister's alternate version of what happened makes it clear that the "edge of the world" is a metaphor, the story really one about how members of a fractured family differently mythologize events of their lives. The narrative is insightful in the way it shows alternate perspectives of the same events, but ultimately, there's no fantastic element to those events.There isn't anything explicitly fantastic in the next story, either, despite which it's one of my favorites, Elizabeth Hand's "The Saffron Gatherers". It tells of a woman from the East Coast who visits a friend in San Francisco; they talk about Greece and shop for million-dollar homes in Oakland. She looks at a book of ancient Greek frescoes, frescoes ironically preserved by the volcanic eruption that buried the island centuries ago, and as she looks out at the Bay, her impression of the area as a sort of fairyland invites comparison between one destroyed civilization and another that could well be on the cusp of destruction. The story is SF in the narrow sense that SF sometimes includes catastrophe fiction, but its themes are really about parallels between cultures, ancient and modern, east coast and west coast, and the fragility of civilizations, and of flowers. A number of stories are conventionally fantasy, and would not be out of place in F&SF or Realms of Fantasy. Gina Ochner's "Song of the Selkie" concerns a lighthouse keeper, the woman from the sea he marries and quickly loses, and the twin girls left behind. The story is nicely understated, tracking the sensitivities of the characters more than the plot points themselves, but the result is a story whose plot is merely sketchy. Nik Houser's "First Kisses from Beyond the Grave" is about a high school boy who inadvertently gains admission to Purgatory High, a school for the dead, while a serial killer is loose back at his own school. The moody opening quickly turns to horror-flick cliché, and the story's tone varies wildly from satire to farce to introspection to sentiment. Sarah Monette's "Draco Campestris" is composed of 12 fragmentary sections over ten pages, concerning a museum that owns 89 specimens of dragons bones, a Lady Archangel who oversees it, and the tithe-children who live there. It's evocative, with bare hints of the culture it's set in, but too loose to be engaging as a story. (Like many of the short pieces in this book, it reads like a sketch for something longer and more substantial.) And Austin Bunn's "The Ledge" is about a 15th-century sailor whose ship encounters the edge of the world, where the ocean pours over a ledge into an abyss populated by the dead. It has some intriguing characters and ideas, about the narrator's awakening and yearnings, but the story's conceit about corners of the world and why things return from the edge never jells.More on-kilter, if perhaps more conventional, are "The Next Corpse Collector" by Ramola D, about the son of a man in a mixed Hindu/Muslim city, perhaps in India, whose older brother, the heir to their father's business of collecting corpses for burial, runs away. The story is vividly descriptive and emotional, its depiction of family relationships more realistic than in the other stories, and it even has a twist ending that resolves the implicit question of the title. Maile Chapman's "Bit Forgive" concerns a man who receives a letter from a schoolmate presumed drowned at sea 15 years before. As he reads the letter, the history of the two men, and of the woman who became the survivor's wife, becomes more intriguing. It ends with a Twilight Zone-like twist that leaves it open to either a mundane or a fantastic explanation. Brian Evenson's "An Accounting" is that of a man who becomes the "Midwestern Jesus," traveling westward in some post-apocalyptic future to find new resources for his people. He finds a starving band of Midwesterners who take him for a Jesus figure, and eventually misinterpret his advice to cannibalize one of their number so the rest can survive the winter. I'll pass over other stories I found less than rewarding (or in some cases merely baffling) in order to focus on the handful I liked best. In Daniel Alarcón's "Abraham Lincoln Has Been Shot" two men, lovers, have lost their jobs and sit in a bar, struggling with things between them they can't express, and one of them privately reminisces about the year he spent with Abraham Lincoln, his first love. His daydream or fantasy conflates a remark about Lincoln the other made with his own immediate situation, but it's expressed so matter-of-factly that the fantasy becomes as real as the highway they drive down. Tony D'Souza's "The Man Who Married a Tree" presents narratives of several residents of a small town recalling how they knew the title character, but then the story goes beyond one level of parable into a more fantastic parable, with narratives by the creek, the soil, the mountains, and then by the author and his mother — how they all felt about the man and his strange marriage. Kelly Link's "Origin Story" presents a meandering conversation between a girl named Bunnatine Powderfinger and her boyfriend, as they sit outside a Land of Oz theme park, speculating about superheroes and fairy tale heroines and where they came from, their origin stories. It's one of the few stories in the book whose theme is particularly American, and it's playful on the surface while hiding a darker truth that goes unsaid between them.Ann Stapleton's "The Chinese Boy" is the story I found most interesting without completely liking or being able to recommend; it strikes me as the story in the book most undercut by its literary pretensions. It concerns an elderly black man who becomes obsessed with a young Chinese teller he sees through the windows of a bank across the street from his house. The vision of the boy not only triggers a lifetime of unexpressed emotion — though he has a grown daughter living with him, he has apparently never been in love — it also evokes memories of a childhood tragedy from his boyhood in Africa. The problem for me is that, though the story is written in the third person, the point of view is the old man's, who filters events in this middle American city through the sensibilities of the Serengeti, and the prose is so steeped in metaphor and gauzy description — Everything from out of nowhere looking in the window, he rocks himself in the outgrown cage of his life, the same leaf falling just beyond his reach, over and over, like the smudged, red key to everything he needs. — that it's difficult to know, for paragraphs at a time, whether anything is actually happening, or if we are instead experiencing the projections and fantasies of an old man's mind. Despite which — a genuine plot crisis occurs, building to a surprisingly moving emotional resolution. I just wish it weren't so enshrouded by rhetorical fog.Metafictional playfulness is the subject of Peter LaSalle's "The End of Narrative", composed of numbered sections on the topic of narrative and whether it ended with Borges. The author seems to illustrate his point by interrupting his own narrative with a full page of comments about various Borges biographies, then a paragraph of ruminations crossed out with a big X, and asides about Borges' supposed fear of mirrors, before, ha ha, launching into an extended anecdote from a man the author meets in a bar, about the man's relationship with a woman who turns out to be writing a tell-all blog that, sadly, doesn't mention him at all. LaSalle subverts narrative and indulges in it at the same time, proving nothing, but in a playful way.Geoffrey A. Landis' "Lazy Taekos" is a charming tale set in a far future, about a boy too lazy to work on the heart farm where he was grown from a seed, who heads for the big city to make his fortune. He pursues a girl whose stepfather refuses to let her marry anyone but "a man who has never been born, who is wearing a cloak that has never been worn," and so on, and the clever (if lazy) Taekos proceeds to satisfy every condition in manners rationalized science-fictionally, as cleverly by the author as by the protagonist.Finally, Kevin Brockmeier's "A Fable with Slips of White Paper Spilling from the Pockets" is the one story in the book that had me actually smiling with delight. A man buys a coat from a thrift shop and discovers slips of paper appearing in the pockets with odd phrases — "please help me figure out what to do about Albert" — that he realizes are prayers; he has bought God's overcoat. In a narrative manner quite unlike any other story in this anthology, Brockmeier's protagonist explores his discovery, considers what to do about it, makes decisions, takes actions, encounters circumstances. There's an actual, quite charming story here about the consequences of a loopy premise and how it would play out in the real world.Bottom line: Best American Fantasy isn't your father's best-of-the-year fantasy anthology. At turns pretentious, baffling, and engaging, its nevertheless unique perspective on what fantasy is, and the scope of its sources, makes it a valuable new entry in the overcrowded field of annual surveys of fantasy and SF. Be prepared not to care for every story in the book, but with patience and tolerance, there are surprises here you aren't likely to discover anywhere else. 041b061a72


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