cover image California Sorcery: A Group Celebration

California Sorcery: A Group Celebration

. Cemetery Dance Publications, $40 (285pp) ISBN 978-1-881475-70-5

Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Harlan Ellison, Charles Beaumont, Ray Russell: during the 1950s and '60s these legendary writers and others formed a SF powerhouse known as the California School or, more simply, the Group. Within their abundant novels, screenplays, television treatments and stories can be found the genesis of much of today's SF, fantasy and horror. In what is perhaps the first anthology dedicated to the Group's writing, Christopher Conlon provides a concise but comprehensive introduction to its history and its influences on the popular fantastic form, from literature to Roger Corman's films to The Twilight Zone. Informative headnotes from co-editors Nolan (himself a member of the Group) or Schafer preface each author's contribution. Nine of the 12 stories are previously unpublished--including Bradbury's ""Pilgrimage,"" which recounts with sharp details a young man's visit to his cousin's grave (""There were more birds in the trees than leaves, it was that early in the year""). Unfortunately, the collection doesn't present the finest examples of Group work. The biggest disappointment is Russell's ""The Way of a Man with a Maid,"" an excerpt from an unpublished Victorian romance that, with its giddy, steamy prose, departs from Russell's better-known writings. Nonetheless, most of the contributions are adequate and a few are jewels, such as Matheson's tale of a small-town postmistress who falls in love with a visiting writer; an excellent example of character study, ""Always Before Your Voice"" seamlessly moves from idyllic sweetness to eerie suspense. Sure to provoke a better understanding of these prolific authors, this anthology delivers cogent literary history and generally enjoyable fiction by master craftsmen. (Sept.)