Full disclosure – Randall Schanze is a Facebook friend, whom I met through blog-crawling quite a few years back. We’re not close, but I read his previous book Ice Cream and Venom, and liked it pretty well. So I tried his new story collection, Clearinghouse.
Clearinghouse is a collection of stories Schanze has written since the start of his career. The backbone of the assemblage is a series of stories set in an alternate history where the NASA Moon and Mars projects are not cancelled in the 1970s. Tragic, heroic, and funny events happen. Science ain’t my long suit, but the technical details seemed authentic and plausible.
Not all the stories relate to that cycle. There are far future stories, fantasies, and even farces. The majority of the far future stories are tied together and involve a radically altered human situation. But each NASA story is followed by a “Frame” sequence, in which author Schanze communicates with a fan (implied to be his only fan), who keeps urging him to write more while he himself hangs back, discouraged by his lack of publishing success. Such a device might be expected to come off as self-indulgent, but it worked for me, and added a certain piquancy and unity to the whole exercise.
I’m not a Science Fiction fan myself, but I enjoyed Clearinghouse and recommend it.