FORGOTTEN BOOK: GHOST SEAS by Steven Utley, 1997
This is the 106th in my series of Forgotten Books.
I have known Steve Utley for many, many years. I believe I met him at my first or second convention, an AggieCon (either Number 4 in 1973 or Number 5 in 1974). He was part of what was described as the Texas Neo Pro Rodeo, a group which included Steve, Howard Waldrop, Joe Pumilia, and, perhaps, Lewis Shiner. They went on to form the Turkey City Writers’ Workshop, which I attended a couple of times with dismal results. My work was pretty awful back then.
He eventually settled in Austin, but I had already moved away, but our paths would cross when I returned for conventions and parties. He wrote a lot back then and was being published and acclaimed everywhere.
So, why did it take about 25 years to appear? Enquiring minds should want to know. It was nine more years before WHERE OR WHEN appeared from PS Publishing, in the UK.
GHOST SEAS was published by Ticonderoga Publications, from Australia. It contains 14 stories, ranging in length from very short (4 pages) to novella length (25 pages). And they are all good. Some are great. They are all worth your time and effort.
First up is the title story, which deals with a young man and his new wife visiting his (crazy?) uncle in west Texas during a blistering summer where paint peels off before noon. I really enjoyed “The Dinosaur Season” a story dealing with paleontologists and their constant battle with creationists. This one is a mystery story and quite fun. “Race Relations” deals with a man who has returned after being possessed by alien spirits which have altered his mind and body in unspeakable ways. “The Electricity of Heaven” deals with inhabitants of Richmond during the final days of the Civil War, where they try to maintain their hope amid overwhelming evidence to the contrary. This was one of two Civil War pieces, which were both excellent. “Upstart” is a fine first contact story.
Several stories, including the memorable “Haiti” have Caribbean settings. “The Edge of the Wind” mixes in some voodoo. “Haiti” will undoubtedly being to mind the tragic earthquake of 2010. The situation described in this story from decades earlier show that nothing changes there.
So, American publishers, when are you going to take notice of Mr. Utley? Please do so soon.
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.