cover image Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling

Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling

Edited by Monica Valentinelli and Jaym Gates. Apex, $18.95 trade paper (408p) ISBN 978-1-937009-44-1

Speculative fiction fans tired of clichés will want to grab this expectation-subverting anthology. The second half also includes essays explaining the popularity of tropes and the ways writers undermine them. Elsa Sjunneson-Henry’s “Seeking Truth” features an expert at reading physiological signs; since she’s blind, people think she must be psychic. An idyllic childhood leads a young woman to become a supervillain in Sunil Patel’s “The Origin of Terror.” Kat Richardson presents an entertainingly practical reason for skimpy armor in “Drafty as a Chainmail Bikini.” In Maurice Broaddus’s meta “Super Duper Fly,” Magical Negro refuses to help his assigned white hero. The the best of the many superb nonfiction selections is A.C. Wise’s “Into the Labyrinth,” which examines differences between the hero’s and heroine’s archetypical journeys. The stories and essays are all-around excellent, diving deep into why the tropes exist and how pernicious they can be. When the stories are shocking, they demonstrate how thoroughly these narrative conventions have become embedded in our psyches. This compendium of literary undercutting and rebuilding is both enjoyable to read and an incisive work of commentary on the genre. (Dec.)

This review has been corrected. A previous version didn't list the complete name of Elsa Sjunneson-Henry.