DIFFERENT KINDS OF DARKNESS
Even the most serious of these 36 tales of fantasy, horror and science fiction are charged with a subversive wit and spirit of playfulness that show Langford's determination to turn genre clichés on their heads. "Cube Root" plays out as a standard post-apocalyptic scenario about the breakdown of social order following a nuclear strike—until the soldiers whose eyes it is seen through discover the disaster was faked, and that they're possibly part of a behavioral study. In "The Motivation," pictures discovered in a pornographer's stash point to a mystery whose solution provides its own peculiar titillation. A physicist by profession, Langford (He Do the Time Police in Different Voices ) laces his stories with teasing references to particle theory, fractals and higher mathematics, and often finds ingenious fictional analogs for them, as in "Waiting for the Iron Age," in which the immortal Wandering Jew offers a brief meditation on quantum physics and the inevitable entropic decline of a world he'll outlast. The author is particularly fond of closed-room mysteries, which he wreaks variations on with the vigor of a math prodigy unraveling insoluble theorems. Vampires, Lovecraftian horrors and virtual reality simulations all make appearances, but Langford's deft and clever touch makes them seem refreshingly original themes. (June)
Forecast: The title story won a Hugo Award, of which Langford has won a total of 23, most for his writing in Ansible, his highly intelligent and amusing SF fanzine. Since Cosmos Books has little bookstore presence, word-of-mouth among SF fandom will largely fuel sales.