Saturday, October 27, 2018

Book Review: The People’s Republic of Everything by Nick Mamatas

The People’s Republic of Everything by Nick Mamatas

Paperback, 336 pages

Published August 2018 by Tachyon Publications

This collection is mostly weird fiction that doesn't fit exactly into any genre but the connective tissue is smart well thought out stories. Mamatas is a politically savvy hard to define writer. I have read three novels of his my favorite being Love is the Law released by Dark Horse.

This collection is not the author's first but it is his first in some time. Best part is it comes with a re-edited early short novel. My favorites of the short stories were the ones when Mamatas explored the nature and thinking of the pulp writers he is descended from. I have feeling this author knows that if he lived in the golden age he would have been one of them.

The best example of this was the stories Tom Silex, Spirit Smasher which explored the legacy of the lost pulp writers and the role that women played in the golden age. Some male writers of the era had unsung women helping them and in the case of James Tiptree (her real name was Alice Sheldon) were not even men. Certainly Andre Norton was a writer many never knew was a woman. It is a fun story but I like that it made a subtle point about pulps and gender.

The more political stories like the Diesel punk (That should be copyrighted) story We Never Sleep and The Great Armored Train about Trotsky show Mamatas as both a radical thinker but a historian of theory. I like the title story's brief but fun look at modern Berkley counter culture. I would like a Mamatas novel set with this backdrop.

The novel Under My Roof is the highlight for me. This story or a smart kid whose father declares their home a free state and builds a DIY nuke is funny as it is thought provoking. I liked the straight-forward but witty prose.

There is only one weakness for me in this collection. Some of the stories like Lab Rat and espically North Shore Friday got a little too cute for me. I understand and respect Mamatas trying to experiment with form. I generally understood what he was trying to do but both stories kinda lost me.

Forgive me but I would like go on a little tangent about the author Nick Mamatas the personality. I am not sure he would find this as the compliment I intend it to be when I say he is Internet age Harlan Ellison. What I mean by that is he is a sharp smart writer who flirts with genre but is hard to pin down because he doesn't write typical inside the box fiction. At the same time he developed a following with his razor sharp live journal entries, blog posts and social media presence. Ellison grew into a creepy old man troll with scary gender politics but there was a time when Ellison was the genre writer with sharpest political points of view. (Note Mamatas wrote two excellent online pieces about Harlan, search "Don't let Harlan Ellison Hear This, and Rest in Anger if you don't believe me.)

I would never want to be on the bad side of a writer who is clearly intelligent and a wit ninja. but for some reason a few have picked online fights with him. I like to think I get along with everyone, well almost everyone in the genre community. The only person I don't get along with is a self published author and editor who I shall just refer to here as Captain Pajama Pants (AKA Asparagus Head). This person for some reason has picked many fights with Nick. This is hilarious to me because their place in the genre community are opposites.

Nick is everything this ego manic thinks he is. The problem is Captain PJ pants thinks he is god's gift to genre. He has not been able to publish hardly anything he didn't do himself. While Nick is widely published and has blurbs from some of the most respected authors in the field, has received praise from Publisher's weekly and NPR. Watching Nick tear about said self-published blow-hard was fun enough but watching him satirize him in his novel I Am Providence, and also get a dig in on him in the story notes of the Great Armored Train is beyond satisfying.

On that note, as a writer I enjoyed the story notes probably most of all in this book. This is a great collection worthy of your time. Mamatas as person might come off as abrasive online, but his talent cannot be denied. As a persona in the genre, I think he is needed. I don't always agreewith him, but I always pay attention. You should too.

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