cover image The Progressive Apparatus and More Fantasticals

The Progressive Apparatus and More Fantasticals

Hugh A.D. Spencer. Brain Lag, $14.99 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-928011-46-0

Alienation is not just for extraterrestrials in this flippant and expectation-flipping collection of 10 surreal short stories from Spencer (Extreme Dentistry). Each of these pieces centers on artists and academics struggling to adapt to worlds being turned over to robots. The eponymous apparatus bedevils a writer into reinventing both his craft and his life in three linked stories, first “The Progressive Apparatus,” then “... And the Retrograde Mentor,” and fi nally “... Experience Denial Then Acceptance,” which sees the writer’s journey end with him becoming a foster father to a family of artists who rebel against robotic rule. A mega-corporation’s plot to corner the market on irradiated steel for genetic engineering is thwarted by two “impact artists” in “The Meaning of Steel.” “Ammonite City,” one of the longer pieces, follows galactic agents attempting to replace a doomed planet Earth with a digital recreation for their alien museum, though their software is a bit wonky. And a cult researcher and his Trekkie-turned-federal-agent ex-girlfriend face off against a religion founded by a sci-fi writer in “Cult Stories.” Spencer may not believe in the power of technology to save the world, but he allows humor and humanity to cushion the blow. (Feb.)