Quick ‘n Dirty: Jared Shurin & Anne C. Perry (eds) – 1853

Quick ‘n Dirty is a term used for that first quick search you perform when starting a new research project. It doesn’t have to be exhaustive and all encompassing; it’s just an exploratory search to see what is out there and to collect more search terms before starting a true literature review. I thought it would be a good description for reviews of shorter works, such as short stories or novellas or for less comprehensive reviews of longer works. They may not be as in-depth as I usually try to write my reviews, but hopefully they’ll be a good introduction and indication whether you’d like the stories or books reviewed.

pandemonium-18531853 features three, short, slightly alternate histories – all set in the same fateful year…

Marc Aplin sends a gunslinger to China and poses him an impossible question, Jonathan Green raises an ancient and hungry evil in Mexico City and Laura Graham writes of an Edinburgh overshadowed by more than factory smoke.

1853 is the companion chapbook to A Town Called Pandemonium and contains a further three stories in the same alternate historic timeline, but instead of focusing on Pandemonium, they focus on the world at large. I found this an entertaining premise as it allowed the reader to explore the alternate reality a bit further and to see that all the uncanniness wasn’t just limited to the Weird West, but was all across the globe.  

Marc Aplin – Son of
Aplin’s story is an interesting alternate history. The titular son, Hong Xiuquan, was a historical figure I’d never heard of before, and as a lover of history that is always a fun discovery. As for the meat of the story, the question remains whether it was the Devil or God who chose the gun’s chamber in that crucial moment? And what does the shooter believe himself?

Jonathan Green – Bat Out of Hell
The second story in this chapbook moves us firmly towards the horror corner of genre with the accidental renewal of an old god. Blood sacrifice is always a nasty thing! Still, I liked the story, though I wonder whether I was the only one to flash to the Chupacabra episode of Destination Truth at the last paragraph.

Laura Graham – Islands to Auld Reekie
Graham’s tale gives us a nice glimpse of 1853 Edinburgh and of the Clearances. A historical fact I’d vaguely heard about before in the context of industrialisation, it was interesting to see it incorporated here. The unsettling feeling Abigail described can be interpreted in several ways: as the worries of country folk having to move to the unfamiliar confines of a city, people trying to explain away regular crime, or indeed as a supernatural threat. It’s up to the reader to interpret it how they like. I really enjoyed this story and Graham’s writing and I hope to see more of her work in the future.

1853 is a great companion piece to A Town Called Pandemonium, but can also easily be read without prior knowledge of the main anthology as it stands on its own fairly well. I love the idea of these chapbooks, especially since they remain available even after the main anthologies they accompany go out of print. 1853 is a great way to spend a couple of commutes or lunch breaks and for a small bite is quite satisfying.


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