1. Archive

Florida Fancy // Gainesville author's eclectic collection holds many gems


By Joe Haldeman

AvoNova/Morrow, $22

Reviewed by Dorman T. Shindler

In a recent interview, Gainsville author Joe Haldeman said he had abandoned his computer and was again writing 500 words per day, long-hand. The result of this return to a more meticulous method of creative writing is None So Blind, a collection of fiction that reflects the mastery of the craftsman who cobbled them.

The stories bridge a wide range of genres, mixing horror, historical, fantasy and science fiction. There isn't a bad apple in the bunch. Ranging from good to excellent, the best of them could be considered classics in any genre.

"The Hemingway Hoax" _ part sci-fi thriller, part historical diatribe and part psychological revelation _ includes a forgery scam, double-crosses, parallel worlds, a time-traveling hit man and Papa Hemingway himself. With "Graves," Haldeman takes a tale of Vietnam and invests it with pure, supernatural horror. And in "None So Blind," protagonist Cletus Jefferson ruminates about why blind people _ with portions of their brains going unused _ aren't all geniuses. His findings, and the outcome of his experiments, are perfect fodder for thoughts about the hubris of mankind.

These three stories alone won Haldeman two Nebulas, two Hugos, a World Fantasy, a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial and a Bram Stoker award.

In afterwords to each story Haldeman describes something about the tale's creative process and about the parts of his life that influenced the writing. In the afterword to "Feedback," a science-fiction morality tale that examines the dire consequences when an artist co-creates with his fans, Haldeman explains, for example, that it is the only story he's written with a gay protagonist. "None of that is from direct experience," he writes, "except from having observed over the years that the gay and straight couples I've known exhibit about the same ranges of love and stability and mutual help or destruction."

As a capper, Haldeman offers four poems in this collection. One of them, "DX," is a semi-autobiographical account of an incident from the Vietnam War and a tribute to friends who didn't survive. It will leave you stunned.

Thematic concerns about friendship and courage, the aesthetic values of an artist (and his or her place in society), and the insanity of war are the ties that bind this collection together. Regardless of one's genre preference, this collection deserves a place on every bookshelf in America. It's that good.

Dorman T. Shindler is a freelance writer from Kansas City, Mo.