“Why I Hunt Flying Saucers and Other Fantasticals” by Hugh A. D. Spencer

This is a compilation of short stories celebrating Mr. Spencer’s intelligent and quirky sense of the ridiculous. Each story contains an original and witty take on some normal Science Fiction topic.

The concepts are creative, the humour is sharp but the presentation is academic. Spencer doesn’t write stories; he writes about stories. Then he analyzes them and puts in introductions and footnotes. The introduction to each story even has its own title. This writer has all sorts of creative ideas, but he doesn’t show them. He explains them. Here are some examples:

“When Bloomsbury Fails”

The introduction (“Let’s Blame the Starlost”) to this story is two pages of explanation of how the author learned a science fiction metaphor for a sociological concept. I suggest this will not induce most potential Sci-Fi customers to read on.

“A 21st Century Romance: a Radio Play”

This story has an alternate-universe twist worthy of Star Trek. But it is the script for a radio play, and thus one step away from the intended experience of listening to it.

“(Coping with) Norm Deviation,” the flagship of the collection.

This is the tale of the author and his friends making a movie in their final year of High School. It includes most of the film script, along with the backstory of what was happening at the time: the technical problems and how they solved them, the relationships between the friends as they worked, the personal life of the author as it all unfolded.

The difficulty is the autobiographical nature of the format. We are one level away from the teenager, filtered through his adult viewpoint. This creates an undertone of self-deprecatory humour, but flattens out the true emotional ups-and-downs of the teenage experience.

My Final Comment to Mr. Spencer:

Fiction is fiction, and analysis is analysis; if you try to write both at the same time you lose the intimacy of the author-reader relationship. Some forms of fiction may lend themselves to this approach, but Science Fiction readers do not expect it. Oh, yes, and overdone technical jargon is funny, but too much of it palls quickly.

Recommended for those who prefer the intellectual understanding of concepts rather than the human emotion those concepts create.

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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