A review of Rustblind and Silverbright: A Slipstream Anthology of Railway Stories (edited by David Rix)
Rustblind and Silverbright: A Slipstream Anthology of Railway Stories (edited by David Rix) was published by Eibonvale Press in July 2013.
Information about David Rix:
David Rix was born in England in 1978. He has had a lifelong fascination with horror and the surreal and has been a dedicated reader and collector of books for several years. In 2004 his first story was published in the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology Strange Tales from Tartarus Press.
Information about Rustblind and Silverbright: A Slipstream Anthology of Railway Stories:
Trains occupy a special place in the human psyche. The twin threads of the rails forge ahead from place to place, the ultimate symbol of travel and connection and all the hopes, fantasies, fears, reasons, romance and excitement that come with that. The links between points, the bridges and tunnels, are always so much more profound than borders or walls. And yet you travel these links through a world that is isolated from normal life and unique to itself. The railways are so mundane and taken for granted, passing through the backs of your cities and towns, yet they are worlds that cannot be visited, cannot be known. Worlds that can only be glimpsed from blurred windows or from the far end of the platform. Hidden places. Private places. Places where the ordinary and the secret meet.
This was the mood in which Rustblind and Silverbright came into being – a book of railway stories that aimed to look far beyond what you might expect from classic horror or sci-fi. Like any good journey, the scenery of this book is ever-changing. You will ride the rails of language and imagination through many and varied places – some almost unendurably disturbing, some bleak and miserable, some surreal and strange, some touching and moving, some absurd and comical, some exquisitely beautiful. This is a collection that ranges widely from the almost-familiar double-track line of slipstream fiction to the grungy metro of sci-fi and the dark and sparsely served branch line of pure horror, while the squawking locomotives of absurdism jostle with still stranger trains that ride to – other places.
A REVIEW OF RUSTBLIND AND SILVERBRIGHT: A SLIPSTREAM ANTHOLOGY OF RAILWAY STORIES (EDITED BY DAVID RIX)
Rustblind and Silverbright is an impressive and extremely well edited slipstream anthology of railway and train stories. It's an original and unique anthology that contains several different stories and offers an interesting reading experience for the readers.
Just in case somebody is wondering what slipstream fiction is, I think it's good to explain what it means. Slipstream fiction is fantastic or non-realistic fiction that crosses conventional genre boundaries between fantasy, science fiction and mainstream fiction (in certain cases slipstream fiction also crosses boundaries between horror and mainstream fiction and also boundaries between dark fantasy and mainstream fiction). Slipstream fiction can be said to fall between speculative fiction and mainstream fiction, and it often contains surreal and weird elements.
Rustblind and Silverbright contains the following stories:
- Tetsudo Fan - Andrew Hook
- On the Level - Allen Ashley
- The Wandering Scent - Aliya Whiteley
- To the Anhalt Station - John Howard
- Death Trains of Durdensk - Daniella Geary
- Vivian Guppy and the Brighton Belle - Nina Allan
- The Last Train - Joel Lane
- Writer's Block - S. J. Fowler
- Northern Line Tube Announcement - Anon
- The Path of Garden Forks - Rhys Hughes
- District to Upminster - Marion Pitman
- Wi-Fi Enabled Bakerloo Sunset - R. D. Hodkinson
- Stratford International - David McGroarty
- The Cuts - Danny Rhodes
- Sleepers - Christopher Harman
- Escape on a Train - Steve Rasnic Tem
- Choice - Charles Wilkinson
- Embankmen - Gavin Salisbury
- Sunday Relatives - Douglas Thompson
- The Engineered Soul - Jet McDonald
- Didcotts - John Greenwood
- The Keeper - Andrew Coulthard
- Not All Trains Crash - Steven Pirie
- The Turning Track - Matt Joiner and Rosanne Rabinowitz
There are eight non-fiction articles (written by David Rix) in this collection:
- Animal Station Masters, Japan
- Der Breitspurbahn
- UK Ghost Trains
- London Underground Mosquito
- The DLR Shuffle
- The DUMB Network
- The Necropolis Railway that Was and the Sewage Rail that Wasn't
- The Little Carriage to North Korea
Before I write more about Rustblind and Silverbright, here's a bit more information about the stories and my thoughts and short comments about them:
Tetsudo Fan - Andrew Hook:
- A story about a 15 year old Kazuo who meets Kunihiro who's also a tetsudo fan.
- This story is an interesting glimpse into Japanese culture and life of a tetsudo fan.
On the Level - Allen Ashley:
- An interesting and nostalgic story about Tom's life and music that's connected to trains.
- I liked this story very much, because the author wrote well about Tom's life.
- The tragic ending was perfect.
The Wandering Scent - Aliya Whiteley:
- A beautiful story about Tina/Rita, a train and a golden age.
- A touching and well written slipstream story.
To the Anhalt Station - John Howard:
- A fantastic story about a man and his visits to old railway stations.
- The atmosphere in this story is fantastically weird.
Death Trains of Durdensk - Daniella Geary:
- This story can be called weird fiction, because it's a story about dead corpses and bodies that have been put to trains that travel throught the city.
- I love this story, because it's excellent weird fiction.
Vivian Guppy and the Brighton Belle - Nina Allan:
- A fascinatingly written novella about a search for a specific train set.
- I love this novella, because the story is captivating and the characterization is superb. The author writes well about a family tragedy.
The Last Train - Joel Lane:
- A creepy, disturbing and unsettling story about Malcolm, his life and his memories.
- A perfect horror story for readers who like macabre stories.
Writer's Block - S. J. Fowler:
- An interesting piece of flash fiction that is almost like a combination of a poem and a flash fiction story.
Northern Line Tube Announcement - Anon:
- A short, but interesting announcement.
The Path of Garden Forks - Rhys Hughes:
- A weird and humorous story about Flann, his ant problem and his plans for Infinite Train.
- There's a nice amount of quirky humour in this story.
District to Upminster - Marion Pitman:
- This is a nice and interesting short story.
- I find it fascinating that one of the characters (Sami) has a Finnish name (the character has the same first name as I do).
Wi-Fi Enabled Bakerloo Sunset - R. D. Hodkinson:
- A bit different kind of a story about memory loss and wi-fi internet connection.
- A weld told story.
Stratford International - David McGroarty:
- A wonderfully written story about Owen and his life.
- The Isle of Dogs is an interesting choice for a setting in this story.
The Cuts - Danny Rhodes:
- An excellent horror story about a civil servant and what has happened in a small community.
- The author writes atmospherically about the happenings and surroundings.
Sleepers - Christopher Harman:
- An excellent and unforgettable horror story about Vince and Rory and their visit to the Pennines.
- This is one of the best horror stories I've ever read, because the atmosphere is wonderfully unsettling and the story becomes creepier and creepier as the ending approaches.
Escape on a Train - Steve Rasnic Tem:
- A well written story about a man called Carter who's on the train and sees all kinds of terrible things.
- The author writes well about Carter and how he feels about what's going on.
Choice - Charles Wilkinson:
- An intriguing story of a man who has found a bungalow for himself.
- The characters, Pengevil and Holder, are interesting, because they want to play games with the protagonist.
Embankmen - Gavin Salisbury:
- A good and surreal poem.
- This poem adds nice versatility to the anthology.
Sunday Relatives - Douglas Thompson:
- An excellent story about a man who's the director of a mental asylum.
- The author writes well about the protagonist and his hobby.
The Engineered Soul - Jet McDonald:
- An interesting and surreal story about souls and a locomotive called The Engineered Soul.
- This story is a delightfully different kind of a surreal fantasy story.
Didcotts - John Greenwood:
- A well written and fantastic story about a man who travels to a foreign country, Bandrika.
- This story is a real page-turner and one of the best stories in this anthology.
The Keeper - Andrew Coulthard:
- A fascinating and well written story about Vogel and how she gets aboard a strange train.
- There's a wonderful feel of surreal dark fantasy to this story.
Not All Trains Crash - Steven Pirie:
- A touching story about ghosts that are trapped where a train has crashed.
- This is one of the finest and most beautiful stories in this anthology.
The Turning Track - Matt Joiner and Rosanne Rabinowitz:
- A fascinating story about love, death and a mysterious train.
- This story is a real gem of slipstream fiction.
Railway stories have been written for a long time, but when you think about how often they are published nowadays, they're actually rare stories. I think it's interesting that there are several mainstream stories that feature trains and railways, but it's a bit difficult to find speculative fiction stories about them. That's why it was refreshing to read this anthology, because each story contains elements that are connected to trains and railways. The experimental nature of certain stories and the weird elements add a nice touch of charm to this anthology.
David Rix has put both time and care into collecting all the stories and has paid a lot of attention to writing the non-fiction articles. This anthology is clearly a labour of love, because you can feel the dedication and affection for the stories on every page.
David Rix's non-fiction articles are well written articles. They give interesting insight into trains and railway systems. They also reveal fascinating historical details to readers. For example, it was interesting to read how bodies were moved by trains to a cemetery. It was also interesting to read about animal stations masters in Japan and what kind of an insect lives in the underground tunnels.
Rustblind and Silverbright is an interesting reading experience, because each story is a masterpiece. Normally, there are at least a couple of weak stories in every anthology, but not in this case, because each story is of the highest quality (there are no filler stories here, which - in my opinion - is amazing). I can honestly say that the authors have done their best to write memorable and original stories that will impress readers.
All the authors write fantastically about the characters. The characters face all kinds of difficulties and find themselves in situations that are either weird, unexpected or threatening. I enjoyed reading about how the different and difficult situations were handled in the stories, because I've always been fascinated by how authors make their characters act in difficult situations and what motivates the characters to do the things they do.
What I like most about Rustblind and Silverbright is that it contains literary stories that differ quite a lot of from normal science fiction, fantasy and horror stories. It's a truly outstanding anthology that crosses several boundaries and often delves deep into the fascinating world of the unknown and the psyche of the characters. The stories in this anthology range from mainstreamish fiction and fantasy to science fiction and horror, but not in the normal and expected kind of way. All the stories are wonderfully deep and original stories that avoid clichés and offer glimpses into the world of trains and railways.
When I think about railway stories, I have to mention that one of the most famous examples of railway speculative fiction stories is perhaps Clive Barker's Midnight Meat Train (there are also other good speculative fiction stories that have trains and railways in them, but this one comes to my mind as one of the best and most unforgettable examples of speculative railway stories). Because I've admired Barker's story for a long time, I was delighted to find out that this collection contains unsettling horror stories that are equal to Barker's story in terms of weirdness and threatening atmosphere.
The first of these horror stories, Joel Lane's The Last Train, is British horror at its best and most intriguing - to be honest, it's a work of art (in my opinion the author writes perfectly about the protagonist, Malcolm). This story is a fantastically unsettling horror story that will shock you with its atmosphere and happenings. I think that all horror readers will be impressed by this story.
The other horror stories are Danny Rhodes' The Cuts and Christopher Harman's Sleepers. The Cuts is an excellent horror story about a civil servant who's travelling to a small community. What he finds there is frightening and very creepy. Sleepers is also an excellent and deeply unsettling horror story, because the author writes surprisingly fluently about the happenings and the surroundings in which the protagonists travel and spend time together. Both stories contain echoes of Robert Aickmann and other similar authors.
These three horror stories get plenty of praise from me, because they're good, bleak and disturbing stories. As a long time fan of quality horror fiction I was very impressed by them. After reading these stories I can say that I definitely want to read more stories by these authors.
Nina Allan's Vivian Guppy and the Brighton Belle is an excellent and enthralling novella. It's a novella that immediately hooks you and you can't stop reading it. It's amazing how well the author writes about the characters and the happenings. The protagonist's relationship with Vivian Guppy is interesting, because Vivian hires her to find a train for himself (the protagonist is a woman who tracks down trains for people). What she finds out is interesting and also disturbing.
Daniella Geary's Death Trains of Durdensk was a pleasant surprise, because it's a splendidly written weird fiction story. This story begins normally, but soon the author ventures into the realm of weird fiction and the happenings become weirder and weirder. This story is a perfect example of modern and original weird fiction.
Andrew Hook's Tetsudo Fan was also a nice surprise. The author writes intriguingly about a young tetsudo fan and how he meets another fan and what happens afterwards. This story is a fascinating combination of different elements from innocence and coming of age to sexuality.
Douglas Thompson's Sunday Relatives gets a special mention from me. It's a sophisticatedly crafted literary story about Hugo Wiseman who is the director of a mental asylum. He likes to play with his train set. I'm sure that everybody who reads this story will love it, because the author writes touchingly and beautifully about Hugo's hobby and how he plays with the train in his free time.
Steve Rasnic Tem's Escape on a Train also gets a special mention from me, because it's a brilliant story about Carter who's escaping his life and sees terrible things while he's on a train. The author writes fluently about the theory of relativity and how it's impossible for people on a train to help others even though they see what's happening outside the train. This story offers lots of food for thoughts.
Steven Pirie's Not All Trains Crash is a touching - and almost heartbreaking - story about ghosts. Ghosts are often associated with horror, but this story isn't horror. Not All Trains Crash is a story about ghosts that are trapped where their train crashed. The author writes beautifully about the ghosts and their situation.
Andrew Coulthard's The Keeper is a fascinating story about a woman who wants to help a young man and soon finds herself aboard a strange train that is being controlled by The Keeper. This is one of the most intriguing stories in this anthology, because it blends science fiction with dark fantasy elements.
Matt Joiner and Rosanne Rabinowitz's The Turning Track is a beautiful example of what authors can achieve when they know how to write good fiction and have plenty of imagination. This story is a sparkling gem of literary speculative fiction that will seduce the reader with good prose and strange happenings.
John Greenwood's Didcotts must also be praised, because it's a fantastic story about a salesman who travels to an imaginary Eastern European country called Bandrika. The salesman has an interesting adventure there.
I'm sure that Aliya Whiteley's The Wandering Scent and John Howard's To the Anhalt Station will also impress readers, because they're beautifully written stories, and Jet McDonald's The Engineered Soul, Charles Wilkinson's Choice, R. D. Hodkinson's Wi-Fi Enabled Bakerloo Sunset and David McGroarty's Stratford International will also linger on the readers' minds after reading this anthology (Jet McDonald's The Engineered Soul is so different from the other stories that it can be called a feast of imagination).
I think it's great that the stories are versatile and the authors write about trains and railways in different ways. The authors give readers a chance to read about different characters, fascinating places, weird happenings and feelings. The landscapes, characters and moods change, because each story differs from the other stories, but what connects the stories is a love for writing and language, because each author has done his/her best to write a good story that will thrill the readers.
The authors address several different themes in their stories. Here are examples of the themes: Where do the tracks take us? What will happen to us if we follow the tracks? Why do trains fascinate us? What secrets do the trails and trains contain? These themes and several other themes are explored deftly and fluently in the stories and each author has his/her own way of approaching them.
The weirdness, bleakness and surreal nature of some of the stories impressed me very much. The weird elements range from subtle weirdness to stunning weirdness. I have to mention that Rhys Hughes' The Path of Garden Forks is definitely one of the weirdest and funniest stories I've read this year, because the author manages to surprise the reader with his twisted and quirky sense of humour. Daniella Geary's Death Trains of Durdensk is also a story that is stunningly weird, and Christopher Harman's Sleepers is a perfect example of a weird horror story.
I have to mention that I was very impressed by the prose in these stories. It seems that all the authors are capable of writing good prose. I think that experienced readers will notice that a surprising amount of details, depth and style can be found in certain stories.
One of the best things about this anthology is that lesser known authors have had a chance to get their stories published. It was great to read their stories, because they were excellent stories. I sincerely hope that all the lesser known authors whose stories have been published in this anthology will continue to write more stories, because great things can be expected from them.
I liked all the stories in this anthology, so it's difficult for me to choose my favourite stories, but if I had to pick a few stories, I'd probably pick these stories: Nina Allan's Vivian Guppy and the Brighton Belle, Andrew Hook's Tetsudo Fan, Rhys Hughes' The Path of Garden Forks, Joel Lane's The Last Train, Allen Ashley's On the Level, Daniella Geary's Death Trains of Durdensk, Jet McDonald's The Engineered Soul, Steve Rasnic Tem's Escape on a Train, Danny Rhodes' The Cuts, Christopher Harman's Sleepers, Steven Pirie's Not All Trains Crash, Matt Joiner and Rosanne Rabinowitz's The Turning Track, and Douglas Thompson's Sunday Relatives. All of these stories (and also the ones that aren't mentioned here) are worth reading and praising.
I dare say that Rustblind and Silverbright is the most versatile speculative fiction anthology of the year. Some of these stories are touching and beautiful while others are weird, shocking and disturbing, so there's something for everybody in this anthology. This anthology will be of interest to both experienced readers and newcomers, because it contains diverse stories that have plenty of depth and atmosphere in them.
I give this unique and versatile anthology full five stars and I highly recommend it to all readers, because it contains original and fascinating speculative fiction stories about trains and railways. All the stories in Rustblind and Silverbright are fine examples of how versatile and well written speculative fiction stories can be and how much they offer to the readers in terms of depth, characterization and storytelling. If you're thinking of reading only one anthology this year, please make sure that it is Rustblind and Silverbright, because you won't regret reading it.
Very highly recommended!