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Dangerous Space by Kelley Eskridge
Cover Artist: La Despedia by Remedios Varo
Review by Nancy Jane Moore
Aqueduct Press  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781933500133
Date: June 2007 List Price $18.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Book Website / Show Official Info /

Kelley Eskridge doesn't tell you everything. She leaves space in her stories for readers to work things out for themselves. But here's the rub: She sets things up so that readers will not always be completely sure what they've found. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that they may not be completely comfortable with what they find. As the title implies, these spaces are dangerous.

Comment by the Author:
It's my hope that it doesn't matter whether Mars is a man or a woman. I hope that Mars is human, with human feelings and longings and joys and fears. Mars isn't a puzzle for the reader to solve -- there is no right answer -- but rather, I hope, a space for the reader to enter into so that they can take the same journeys.

I love writing these stories -- there's such freedom here -- and I hope people will enjoy reading them.

All of the stories in this collection are different and a little hard to categorize along traditional genre lines. A couple are science fiction, a couple urban fantasy, one has some of the characteristics of sword and sorcery, and the rest are probably best called slipstream. And yet the stories form odd connections.

In three of these stories -- the Tiptree nominated "And Salome Danced," "Eye of the Storm," and the title story "Dangerous Space" -- the viewpoint character is named Mars. Despite being named for the God of War, and despite the fact that the character is all the stories holds a job more often associated with a man than a woman (a director, a warrior, a sound engineer), I defy you to tell me whether Mars is male or female. I also defy you to tell me that it matters whether Mars is male or female.

Dangerous spaces, indeed, when an author weaves tales about sex and lust and even love and yet the gender of the primary character is irrelevant.

The stories cross in other ways. Several address the power of performing arts -- how they affect the artist and how they affect the viewer or listener. Two slide around the slippery slope of madness -- "Alien Jane," which was nominated for a Nebula and won the Astraea writer's award, and "Somewhere Down the Diamondback Road" -- and both provide spaces where the reader will ask dangerous questions about what is sane and what is not.

Only "City Life" -- in which a reporter becomes obsessed with a ragged woman who may have the power to heal -- seems different from the others. Interestingly, it is the only story where the viewpoint character is clearly male, as opposed to clearly female or clearly unclear. Still, it fits into the collection all too well -- there's nothing comfortable about it.

Six of the seven stories in this, Eskridge's first collection, were published in the 1990s. Only the title story, a novella, is new here. A powerful piece, with just enough tech to tell readers they're in the world of the day after tomorrow, and just enough understanding of the places where human beings really connect to give us a ray of hope for that future, it might be the best story in a very fine collection. It certainly provides the most dangerous space.

I wouldn't classify Eskridge's work as surreal, but the cover, a painting by the great surrealist painter Remedios Varo, fits this collection perfectly. Called "La Despedida" -- The Departure -- it shows two people walking off in different directions and yet leaves the impression that they might meet beyond another turn, or might not ever cross each other's path again.

The painting is also full of dangerous spaces.

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