One of the things I love about contributing to anthologies is reading all the contributions by other authors. Unfortunately, sometimes life gets busy and by the time I receive a contributor copy, I don’t have the time to read the anthology right away and it ends up added to my to-read stack. That was what happened when Nine to Eternity came out in 2020 while I was hard at work on my novella Breaking the Code and Kitt Peak National Observatory was preparing to reopen for science. As it turns out, Nine to Eternity is one of the rare anthologies which has been published as an audiobook, so I was able to give it a listen during a recent commute to Kitt Peak.
Nine To Eternity: A Science Fiction Anthology began when the editor, M. Christian, reached out to the authors to invite them to submit “a personal favorite story: one that also, sadly, didn’t get the love they’d put into it.” The anthology is also a sequel of sorts to M. Christian’s anthology Five to the Future: All New Novelettes of Tomorrow and Beyond. Christian invited all the original authors back, and then asked each of them to invite a friend to submit a story for the new anthology. That’s how I became connected to the book.
The audio edition is read by Gordon MacCathay who has a wonderful, deep voice. He also has great vocal control and was able to give each character in each story a distinctive voice. I was able to follow the events without any difficulty.
The anthology opens with the story “Skin Deep” by Emily Devenport. It tells the story of a woman on the planet Moasai who enters her dog, Puke, in the Ugliest Pet in the Galaxy contest. But before she can win the contest, she must resolve a dispute over the dog’s ownership.This was a fun tale with a nice romantic sub-plot.
Next up is “Spitzkov Red” by Jody Scott. Raik is a young man nearing graduation from the military academy. For his final test, he must face the hologram of a famous ancestor and learn about his family’s true nature. It takes a thoughtful look at the nature of comradeship and service while also delivering a poignant twist ending.
In Ralph Greco Jr.’s “Bombastic Christ”, Jesus is cloned from DNA taken from the Shroud of Turin. Agents plan to capture the clone. However, the growth agent used by the university researchers behind the project goes wrong, creating a giant toddler Jesus who goes on a rampage through the university.
The story I knew best besides my own was Ernest Hogan’s “The Great Mars-a-Go-Go Mexican Standoff” because I was the first person to publish the story in Tales of the Talisman Magazine. What’s more, Ernest is the friend who recommended me to M. Christian for this anthology. This is a rollicking tale of a detective hired by a model’s head to find out who stole her body and is holding it for ransom.
From the introduction, I gather Arthur Byron Cover wrote “A Murder” to help process the loss of friends to murder. I can’t honestly say I “enjoyed” this tale because Cover is so effective at getting inside the head of both the misogynistic murderer and his terrified victim. Still, it’s well written and worth reading, if nothing else for its reflections on how casually writers of popular fiction often treat the subject of violent death.
Cynthia Ward gives us a breezy steampunk tale set in London’s East End. Lucy Harker is a woman who has gained great strength and skill through her life experiences and seeks to end a mass murderer’s career. Her efforts bring her to the attention of a certain consulting detective’s older brother who sits near the seat of British government.
My story about the discovery of an asteroid on a collision course with Earth comes next. In this case, it was fun to just sit back and hear how Gordon MacCathay interpreted Professors Jerry Auchincloss and Bethany Lange, along with Auchincloss’s assistant Roy Talbot. I enjoyed hearing the story read back to me and only caught a couple of places where I might have said something a little differently if I ever had another chance to edit the story.
The penultimate story in the anthology is “In the Canal Zone” by Jean Marie Stine. It imagines a sort-of inter-dimensional way station where people might flee dangers in their home dimension. In this case, a young girl befriends one such person and helps her elude pursuit. As with many tales in this book, it gives us a nice twist ending.
M. Christian closes the anthology with a whimsical story he wrote in his early days learning the craft of writing. He tells a tale of humans living in a near paradise where they have everything they need until a force is unleashed that causes the humans to begin disappearing, which then leads them to build the first skyscraper.
Listening to this anthology felt like spending time with old friends. I’m fortunate to be acquainted with Ernest Hogan, Emily Devenport, and Cynthia Ward in real life. I’ve also had the pleasure of publishing one of Ralph Greco, Jr.’s stories in Tales of the Talisman. If you haven’t discovered this anthology, I encourage you to give it a read or a listen.
The Kindle edition is available at: https://www.amazon.com/Nine-Eternity-Science-Fiction-Anthology-ebook/dp/B08JHBGTJS/
The Audible edition is available at: https://www.audible.com/pd/Nine-to-Eternity-Audiobook/B08VNF8Q4Y
You can also find the audio book at iTunes and Amazon.