Impossibilia, my first collection of short fiction, from the award-winning UK press, PS Publishing, as part of their "Showcase" series highlighting genre fiction's best up-and-coming writers.
Impossibilia was a finalist for the 2009 Aurora Awards for best long form work. The lead story, "A Bouquet of Flowers in a Vase, by Van Gogh," was also a finalist for the 2009 Aurora for best short form work. Another story, "Spirit Dance," won the Aurora in 2001.
With an introduction by award-winning UK fantasy and mystery writer, Chaz Brenchley, Impossibilia contains two brand new novelettes, "A Bouquet of Flowers in a Vase, by Van Gogh" and "Going Down to Lucky Town," plus a reprint of my award-winning novelette, "Spirit Dance," the story on which my first novel is based.
Aurora Award Finalist
Introduction by Chaz Brenchley
Jacketed hardcover (ISBN 978-1906301017)
Hardcover (ISBN 978-1848630000)
Ebook (ISBN 978-0991800711)
PS Publishing, 2008
“Highly, highly recommended” —Fantasy Book Critic
From Chaz's introduction:
"There are three stories in this collection, and they reach from van Gogh's rural France to the classic travelling fair to the far lost forest, and from timeshift to shapeshift to the activity of luck. That's range, or at least a glimpse of range, in the grand manner that harks back to Bradbury and Sturgeon and Ellison; that's the freedom that the short form allows, the humming-bird's brief attention at this flower and at this one and at that...
However it dresses, literature has its great themes – love and death, largely – and its lesser themes, and they mirror the natural concerns of life. Which is why, whatever the setting and whatever the mood, Doug Smith's stories turn inward, on their characters. Not always in a kindly way – fiction is necessarily ruthless, or else it degrades into sentimentality – but these are none the less stories that treat with hope, and will not in the end deny it. Dues are paid, and life goes on: reaching, purposeful, intent."
From the cover flap:
We all have things we hide away inside—secrets, fears, aspects of ourselves we keep locked away. Or try to.
In that respect, the characters we meet in Douglas Smith's Impossibilia are like any of us. They have things inside them too. Only their things are a little... different.
A dead wife that won't leave. A wolf. The secret to being the luckiest man alive.
In 'Bouquet of Flowers in Vase, by van Gogh', remote viewing drives a search through the past for lost masterpieces. An ex-CIA agent, haunted by the presence of his dead wife, falls in love with a beautiful remote viewer with her own secret. But can viewing the past change the present?
Cree Indian legends, a love triangle, a covert government agency, and shape shifters collide in the award-winning 'Spirit Dance', described in Challenging Destiny as "...a vivid and wonderfully written tale about Native Canadian spirits, in the vein of Thomas King."
In 'Going Down to Lucky Town', an itinerant gambler chases a streak of luck across the country, while trying to win back the love of his daughter. The secret he finds forces him into an ultimate gamble for the highest stakes of all: his daughter's life.
And through all the stories, these characters share one more thing beyond what they hold inside. In the decisions they face, in the choices they make, they do what they do out of love. Lost love, found love, the love of a child. But love. So maybe they aren't that different from us after all...
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"Rarely have I seen such an apt title to any book! Douglas Smith has given us three amazing stories that are so unusual and beautiful that no other name than Impossibilia could possibly describe this collection. Each tale was rapture and ecstasy, magical and mysterious, perfect and implausible. In short, I loved them all from the first word to the last. ... I don’t know what else to say without spoiling things for you so I won’t say anything else, except READ THIS BOOK!!!"
— Jim Dodge Jr., Mass Movement Magazine, May 2009
"The three stories collected in 'Impossibilia' are very different, covering almost the entire range of speculative genres. The writing is superb. Douglas Smith is an artisan and his stories beautifully crafted. ... In my search for the perfect short story, the three in this volume certainly qualify."
—Kelly Jensen, SF Crowsnest Book Reviews, 2009
"Both thematically and stylistically, these stories sometimes recall the work of better known authors, including Harlan Ellison, Theodore Sturgeon, and Ray Bradbury. But Smith puts such a personal stamp on his stories, and invests them with such depth of feeling, that they transcend the dangers of … imitation and emerge as wholly original. … There is a certain exhilaration that comes from reading the book’s complex and powerfully emotional stories couched in that deft and smooth prose. It is easy to see why PS Publishing considers Smith an author who deserves more attention. … [Smith deserves] to be known to by a very wide audience indeed."
—Matt Cardin, Dead Reckonings review magazine, No. 5, Spring 2009
"Highly, highly recommended."
—Liviu Suciu, Fantasy Book Critic, 2009
"Impossibilia is a treasure to be savoured, like gourmet chocolates and fine wine. It includes three superb stories…each beautifully written and wondrously imagined. It took me several days to get through this book. Not because it is in any way difficult to read--far from it and quite the opposite: the stories in this collection are so wonderful, I wanted to take time to digest and enjoy each and every one."
—Rainbow Dragon Recommends, 2009
"The stories in this collection reach from van Gogh's rural France to the classic travelling fair to the far lost forest, and from timeshift to shapeshift to the activity of luck. That's range, or at least a glimpse of range, in the grand manner that harks back to Bradbury and Sturgeon and Ellison"
— Chaz Brenchley, award-winning UK writer, 2008
"Each story [in Impossibilia] is unique and different, showcasing a different aspect of Douglas Smith's talent. [...] A fun romp that delivered something different [with] stories that are exhilarating, enjoyable, and well above competence."
— Charles Tan, Bibliophile Stalker - Speculative Fiction Reviews, 2008
"A book that ably demonstrates what Smith is capable of as a writer, added to which, anyone who references Springsteen songs in their titles is going to get the thumbs up from me."
— Peter Tennant, Black Static Magazine, March 2009
"In his elegant and perceptive introduction to this latest showcase collection from PS Publishing, Chaz Brenchley reminds us that 'the proper focus of a story, any story, lies in the characters that inhabit it.' In the three novelettes that comprise Impossibilia, Douglas Smith [lays] bare the psychological and emotional fragility that motivates his characters."
— Mike O'Driscoll, The Fix, 2008
"Aptly named, Impossiblilia introduces the reader to Douglas Smith’s magical reality where the impossible is readily accepted as normal. ... [The] three letter perfect stories behind the expressionist cover art admirably display Mr. Smith’s considerable creativity."
— Kent Knopp-Schwyn, Hellnotes, September 2009
“Stories with hope are stories I need. ... I would very cheerfully read more stories by this author. ... Worth reading: definitely.”
—The International Review of Science Fiction, #106, Summer 2009
"A wonderful book...Each [story] is an example of how a master at the art tells a story... Impossibilia is an amazing little collection.
— Erik Buchanan, writer, 2009
Read reviews of the individual stories here:
About PS Publishing
PS Publishing is an award-winning, UK-based, independent publisher of science fiction, fantasy, horror and crime novellas, novels and short fiction collections. They also publish non-fiction and a quarterly short fiction digest magazine, Postscripts. PS and its publications has won the British Fantasy Award over twenty times, as well as the Bram Stoker Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Locus Award, the International Horror Guild Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Award, the Sidewise Award, the Prix Lumiere, and others. Back to top
Excerpts from the Stories in Impossibilia
Bouquet of Flowers in a Vase, by Van Gogh
by Douglas Smith
Aurora Award Finalist
The painting screams Laure’s name at Maroch. He stares at it in disbelief, choking back his own scream.
It is a still life by van Gogh. This gallery in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris is devoted to Vincent. Beneath the painting, a still life now herself, Laure lies dead.
You should have known she would come here, my love, says a voice inside Maroch’s head. It is a woman’s voice, but not Laure’s.
I should have known a lot of things, he answers silently.
Don’t look at her, says the voice.
I can’t help it.
The scrub team works on Laure. Maroch had sent for them when the museum’s Director called him. He still has some pull at the Company.
Maroch pulls his eyes away as the team lifts Laure’s slim corpse onto the body bag. Instead, he stares at the painting, which is like Laure in two very particular ways: it is beautiful--and it is impossible.
Beautiful. Against a dark blue background, an explosion of flowers overwhelms a white vase. Overwhelms the viewer, too. The flowers, mostly white and yellow chrysanthemums, seem ready to burst from the canvas, run wild over the frame, spill onto the gallery floor. Spill, like Laure lies spilled.
Impossible. This painting can’t exist. But her body gives lie to that. He reads the plaque beside the painting:
"Bouquet of Flowers in a Vase: This still life is not mentioned in van Gogh’s letters and has puzzled scholars as to its place in his artistic production. Most certainly a late work and possibly the Museum’s first painting from his Auvers period (May-July 1890)"
Yes, most certainly a late work, he thinks. Very late. ...
by Douglas Smith
Aurora Award Winner
In the beginning of things, men were as animals and animals as men.-- Cree legend
Vera made a warding sign as I entered the store, my hound Gelert trailing behind me. She pretended to wipe her hands on her faded blue apron, but I caught the dance of her fingers.
“Hello, Vera. It’s been a while,” I said.
“Yes, yes it has, Mr. Blaidd,” she said too quickly, not returning my smile. Turning from where she’d been refilling a food bin, she addressed her husband. “I gotta check something in the back, Ed.” Almost running, she slipped behind the long wooden counter and into the storeroom at the rear of the store.
Edward Two Rivers leaned on the counter beside the cash register, a newspaper spread in front of him, his long gray hair spilling onto the pages. He watched her leave then smiled at me.
“Ouch,” I said.
“You still spook her,” he chuckled.
“Are you going to run and hide too?” I asked, grinning.
The black eyes narrowed, but his smile remained. “Vera's a white woman. My people have told legends of the Herok’a for generations, Grey Legs. I grew up with those stories. I've known others of your kind...and I think I still know you.” ...
Going Down to Lucky Town
by Douglas Smith
If the friends and enemies of Charles Tobias Perlman could agree on one thing, it was this--you never bet against Charlie the Pearl.
And if his enemies numbered higher than his friends, well, Charlie just put it down to the life he had lived. A life that did not appear, at that particular moment, as if it would be lived much longer.
He lay in the dirt behind the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto on a beautiful August evening of 1967. His mouth was bleeding and his head throbbing from the beating just delivered by Eddie Fenton, his former partner-in-crime who was now taking out a gun.
Reaching down, Eddie pulled the big pearl stickpin from Charlie’s tie. He polished it with a couple of rubs on his paisley shirt, then stuck it in the lapel of his dirty denim jacket.
Charlie looked up at him, licking blood from his lips. “That,” he commented, “looks ridiculous.”
"Shaddup.” Eddie aimed the revolver at Charlie’s head. “Payback time, old man. Looks like my lucky day.”
Recent events ran through Charlie’s head faster than a drugged filly. He spat out a broken tooth and chuckled. “Kid, you know absolutely nothing about luck.”
Eddie laughed. “And you do? Lying bleeding in the dirt and about to eat a bullet?” He pulled back the hammer with a click that sounded like two dice knocking together. “You got nothing left to teach me, pops.”
With an amazing degree of detachment, Charlie watched Eddie’s finger tighten on the trigger. “Trust me, kid,” Charlie said quietly, “I'm about to give you one last lesson.”
It had all started four weeks ago. ...