Nick Mamatas’ great collection THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF EVERYTHING makes for a memorable foray
A trio of fresh reviews for Nick Mamatas’ recently released THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF EVERYTHING.
For VOL. 1 BROOKLYN, Tobias Carroll praises the collection.
There’s a telling moment to be found in the history of one of the stories in Nick Mamatas’s new collection THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF EVERYTHING, likely the only collection you’ll encounter this year that includes both a counterfactual account of Trotsky’s early days and an account of a garden gnome-turned-nuclear weapon. It comes after “Slice of Life,” a tale of a particular corner of medical research and the philosophical tangents it inspires among those involved in it.
Mamatas discusses the history of each of the components of the collection–which includes a short novel. For “Slice of Life,” he discusses his plans to retire from writing science fiction in early 2013–a plan which was abandoned after his wife announced that she was pregnant. “Babies cost money,” Mamatas writes. “Crime doesn’t pay. Neither does literature.”
Even so, there’s a tension found in these stories and their relationship to genre that provides an interesting subtext for the collection as a whole. “Slice of Life” is one of the handful of realistic stories in the collection, but even it feints in the direction of the surreal, as it opens with the donation of a particularly singular body to science.
It’s probably no coincidence that these tales of suburbia also fold in nods in the direction of omnipresent surveillance. Mamatas’s fiction is at its best when its approach to genre is dizzying; the convergence and misdirection on display here make for a memorable foray into their creator’s mind–and into world that might have been.
Lashawn M. Wanak at LIGHTSPEED enjoys the book.
Nick Mamatas is a sharp, sarcastic, amazing writer whose fiction runs the gamut from horror to speculative to literary. THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF EVERYTHING gathers his short fiction from the past decade and puts it in one book. It’s a great collection, and if you’re a writer, I highly suggest reading it, not just for the stories, but also for the story notes, where Mamatas gives insights into the history, inspiration, and challenges he had getting the stories published.
For STRANGE HORIZONS, Aditya Singh reviews THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF EVERYTHING.
But one thing that the reader will notice about the novel and short stories collected in THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF EVERYTHING is that they form a good, enjoyable collection, where Mamatas has drawn upon a wide range of personal and political concerns—the life of the writer, ruminations on parenthood, the fate of left-wing politics—to write stories that are funny, deeply evocative and bewildering.
But the few shortcomings of the collection are easily overcome by its stronger elements. Mamatas’s fiction has clearly been shaped by years of political activism and time spent in the indigent parts of American cities—and a sense of familiarity with the subject, often absent in the sort of overtly political American fiction so excoriated by Gray, shines through. Read it and you will not forget what is brought out most clearly in his work: a sense of despair and righteous anger at the present, balanced with some hope of a better future.
Mamatas participated in a REDDIT AMA.
sblinnThe Girl in the Road
Hey! Finally a preorder by me of one of your books has been shipped and delivered before the relevant credit card expired!
My question is, how did you go about selecting stories for this book? Selfishly I would have loved to see “O, Harvard Square!” in there…
NMamatas AMA Author
Well, I collected a bunch of stories from the past ten years—not all of them, but “Oh, Harvard Square” was I think in there—and submitted it to Tachyon under the name The Spook School and Other Stories.
However, a couple of years prior, when it looked like my novel Under My Roof was going to be made into a feature film, I got the rights back and submitted that to Tachyon, with an eye toward a new movie tie-in edition. Tachnyon, as an independent press, is nimble enough to quickly start working on a book when it looks like there might be a market for it, and independent film production is always haphazard when it comes to distribution or even releasing at all. Indeed, scenes from the film were shot, which was enough to get me a biggish payout on a realized option, but the movie was never completed.
Anyway, after some months, Jacob and Jill from Tachyon invited me out to lunch, which is always a good sign. And they pitched a counter-idea: get rid of half the stories, especially ones that were thematically similar to one another, add the one Lovecraftian story I’d forgotten to include in The Nickronomicon (whoops!) and also reprint Under My Roof, as collections do better when there is a giant honking story in it somewhere. Wanting a book more than wanting not-a-book, I said sure. “Oh, Harvard Square” got flushed at that point, along with some other pieces, including even “Thy Shiny Car in the Night”, which was a Best American Mystery Stories reprint. So, it happens! Big-deal stories and not just obscure ones were cut.
A bit later we got some feedback that “spook school” sounds suggestive of spies, so we went with THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF EVERYTHING, which refers in a way both to Under My Roof and to “The People’s Republic of Everywhere and Everything”, one of the crime/SF hybrid stories that made the cut into the final book.
For more info on THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF EVERYTHING, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover by Elizabeth Story