Janis Ian & Mike Resnick, editors,
(DAW, 2003)

Janis Ian has been writing songs since the 1960s, and she's been a science fiction fan that long, too. Egged on by Anne McCaffery and Mike Resnick, she met up with some of her favourite writers at Worldcon 2001 and, from there, the idea of collecting an anthology of SF stories based around her songs was spawned. Each author she invited to the party was selected because they had influenced her work in some way. Each was allowed to pick any of her songs that had moved them. And so Stars was born.

The list of authors is impressive. There are 30 short stories from the likes of Harry Turtledove, Robert Sheckley, Joe Haldeman, Mercedes Lackey (who sent in a Valdemar offering, by special request), Orson Scott Card, Stephen Baxter and Tad Williams. There are also enjoyable contributions from a few relative newcomers and some other writers who are less well known like Kage Baker, Susan Matthews and Kay Kenyon. There's also one from Janis Ian herself, which is fun. So there's something here for everyone.

Listening to music as thoughtful as Ian's can be an intensely personal experience. If you're like me, the things you take from it you hold dear, and you don't want anyone trampling over your own feelings and memories. But it is interesting to see writers responding to audio stimuli and coming up with intriguing interpretations. And the two authors who chose my personal favourite, "At Seventeen," as their launching pad, also produced my favourite stories.

In the introduction Janis Ian notes some of the advice that Charles Aznavour gave her when he was called in to translate "Jesse" into French: "A good translation is not true to the lyric; it is true to the lyric's intent." Terry Bisson's tale of net head kids getting lost in the realms of the Kill Yourself Club certainly stays close to the intent of "At Seventeen." I haven't yet read an Orson Scott Card novel, but his short story, centered on the line "inventing lovers on the phone" but covering so much more, made me want to run out and find one.

If you're a science fiction fan, you'll find plenty here to amuse you. If you're not, dip in anyway. As Ian says, "Science fiction incorporates everyone and everything, from Stephen King to Madeleine L'Engle, from Peter Pan to Winnie the Pooh." You might just be surprised, even if you're not converted.

- Rambles
written by Jean Lewis
published 27 March 2004

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