Lucius Shepard is also on hand in Brighten to Incandescence (Golden Gryphon, $24.95), introducing a collection of Michael Bishop's stories. Bishop, a veteran sf, fantasy and mystery writer, includes work from as far back as 1974 — "The Tigers of Hysteria Feed Only on Themselves" is a were-cat tale with a pungent Vietnam-era flavor — to the never-before-published "Help Me, Rondo." Bishop calls the latter piece a "screenplay of the mind"; it concerns a young man suffering from the deforming bone disease acromegaly, and his attempt to establish his parentage by visiting the widow of Rondo Hatton, a 1940s actor whose own acromegalic affliction led him to play monsters in Hollywood movies. Part screenplay, part short story, "Help Me Rondo" is a worthy stylistic experiment that doesn't quite come off.
The poetry of Wallace Stevens inspires "Thirteen Lies About Hummingbirds," in which a woman's vengeful sexual nature transforms a stable man into a fugitive. "With a Little Help from Her Friends" reunites three of the Beatles (the story was first published in 1984) in a benefit performance for a dying philanthropist. "O Happy Day" mordantly reverses the position of man and rat. "Tithes of Mint and Rue" is a sensitive account of a morbidly obese woman who finds several degrees of satisfaction by running away to join the carnival. Originally from 1980 and rewritten for this volume, "Of Crystalline Labyrinths and the New Creation" pays homage to the quirky R. A. Lafferty and yet possesses a marvelous air all its own:
"The house kept climbing, alarmingly a-tilt. It appeared to pull out of the very bowels of the earth an assemblage of unlikely, frozen-in-place creatures, which rose into the sky in ranks beneath the gaudy yellow house."
Two collaborations, a compelling science fiction mystery called "Murder on Lupozny Station," with Gerald Page, and the excellent horror tale "We're All in This Alone" with Paul Di Filippo, round out the volume. There are far more hits than misses in Brightening to Incandescence, a collection well worth looking for.
— Tim Sullivan, The Washington Post Book World, Sunday, June 8, 2003, Page BW13
© 2003 The Washington Post Company