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Questionable Practices: Stories Paperback – March 11, 2014


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Small Beer Press (March 11, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1618730754
  • ISBN-13: 978-1618730756
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #550,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

io9 Best of the Year: "Gunn's talent for the surreal and bizarre is pressed into the service of exploring how our own subjectivity, and the ways we construct our selves, help to imprison us."

"The best of the stories in Eileen Gunn’s collection Questionable Practices also subvert expectations, taking tropes of fantasy and science fiction and turning them on their head. Elves emerge at the start of one story, only to bring violence rather than enchantment with them; two campers’ encounter with a sasquatch moves from the uncanny and into the romantic. Certain stories riff on existing stories and settings, from Star Trek to Bas-Lag, and these didn’t click quite as much for me. But when this book does click, it does so impressively, bringing with it an impressive sense of wonder."
—Tobias Carroll, Vol. 1, Brooklyn

"True to form, Gunn's new book, Questionable Practices, contains a number of sardonically weird looks at the future and the strangeness of corporate culture. But her insatiable eye for weirdness branches out this time around, featuring a number of different takes on the fantastical.
There is also a good deal of silliness in Questionable Practices, which should be welcomed by anyone who's gotten tired of the pervasive stiff upper lip in SF and fantasy of late. From outright spoofs to metafictional pranks to sarcastic mischief, Gunn is constantly winking at the reader, while also packing tons of clever ideas. And just when you least expect it, she drops a serious truth bomb."
—Charlie Jane Anders, io9.com

"This is an excellent collection. The stories each feel fresh and different, both from one another and from anything else being written today. Sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, always meticulously crafted and brilliantly written, this collection is excellent work from a master of the short story. — SF Revu

"It’s always good news to get a new Gunn collection, and it’s always bad news that they come so infrequently."
Locus

"Gunn’s stories spin ideas done up with sharp edges; they hijack pop-culture favorites and redirect the actors within; they draw for us a series of what-ifs that carry reader and characters away into the dark, there, perhaps, to breed more ideas."
NYRSF

"Nebula-winner Gunn combines humor and compassion in 17 short, intricate gems that showcase her many talents. Of particular note among these outstanding works are the poem “To the Moon Alice,” in which a bombastic threat provides escape from comedic domestic violence, and “Michael Swanwick and Samuel R. Delany at the Joyce Kilmer Service Area, March 2005,” an affectionate fable-like tribute to two legendary authors. “Up the Fire Road” provides dueling accounts of triadic romance and problematic parentage. “Phantom Pain” is a kaleidoscopic examination of a wounded soldier’s life. Though Gunn first saw print in the 1970s, this short collection contains a surprisingly large portion of her stories; her rate of publication has recently been increasing, giving fans reason to hope for many more delights to come."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"The overwhelming mood is darkly comic science fiction—like a strange blend of Terry Gilliam and Margo Lanagan. Teen fans of either or both of those geniuses would do well to turn to Gunn for a similarly unique ride. Her prose is vividly off-kilter, her plots memorable and usually hilarious, and her characters recognizable even when they are tropes. And even though nothing is quite what it seems in these stories, the author’s firm grip on dream logic makes everything feel meaningful, even when it doesn’t quite make sense."
School Library Journal, Adult Books for Teens

“'Phantom Pain' is short and terrible and breathtaking in its ambition and its achievement. It takes the idea of a phantom limb, the way the nerves continue to sense an arm or leg that has been amputated, and expands the notion just a little bit. It tells of a man wounded in war who continues to relive the pain of that vivid moment throughout the rest of his life, so that the jungle track where he was shot and the library where he works or the marital home or the hospital where he ends up become indistinguishable. Pain and memory take away the shape of a life. It is a story that owes nothing to anyone else, it opens up entirely new perspectives for the reader, and if an entire collection made up of such stories might be unendurable, still it shows how much Eileen Gunn can achieve when she lets herself go in new directions."
— Paul Kincaid, Los Angeles Review of Books

Reviews for Eileen Gunn’s stories:

"Corporate satire and Kafkaesque metamorphoses gleefully collide."
Seattle Times

"Without Eileen Gunn, life as we know it would be so dull we wouldn’t recognize it. Among the five or six North Americans currently able to write short stories, she has not written anywhere near enough."
—Ursula K. Le Guin

“Reading this book is like getting to wear the eyeballs of a madwoman in your own sockets for a day. Nothing’s going to look the same.”
—Warren Ellis

“Gunn’s stories are like perfect little bullets, or maybe firecrackers. When you read Gunn, you remember that short fiction can be spare, beautiful, and deadly.”
—Kelly Link

“Eileen Gunn can’t make herself write enough fiction. Encourage her by reading this right away.”
—Bruce Sterling

“Fresh, unusual perspectives on ordinary life.”
Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Eileen Gunn is the author of the story collection Stable Strategies and Others and the co-editor of The WisCon Chronicles Two. Her fiction has received the Nebula Award and the (Japanese) Sense of Gender Award. She is the editor/publisher of the late Infinite Matrix. She lives in Seattle, WA.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By P. Salus on February 26, 2014
Format: Paperback
I love Eileen Gunn. Even my wife knows I love Eileen Gunn. Eileen Gunn has only one flaw: she writes even more slowly than Howard Waldrop, to whom she once introduced me.

Eileen also collaborates: with Swanwick, with Rucker, ...

But she is always balancing on the knife-edge borderland between fantasy and the harsh reality some of you (certainly not she nor I) live in.

There are sixteen stories and a poem here. The first involves the Sasquatch; the second, the Golem; we later encounter Ada Lovelace and Waldrop's 'Day of the Cooters.' Oh, yes, and other entities in other places. The Joyce Kilmer Service Area on the Jersey Turnpike and Zeppelin City and a WWII battlefield in the Pacific. Or I think so. I'll have to ask Rabbi Judah.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Martin T. Fossum on March 25, 2014
Format: Paperback
As first appeared at workadayreads.com

Reading Eileen Gunn's latest collection of short fiction, Questionable Practices (Small Beer Press, 2014), is like buying a grab bag full of fireworks, having a few beers and then lighting fuses...and with each fuse, you have no idea what to expect. Launch. Color. Bang! It's all here in an extraordinary display of virtuosity and craftsmanship. This collection is a perfect example of what contemporary speculative fiction should be, and Gunn is fearless as she leads us through the captivating landscape of her imagination.

(Spoiler Alert!)

The three strongest pieces in this collection are "Up the Fire Road, " "Chop Wood, Carry Water," and "Phantom Pain." In "Up the Fire Road," Gunn speaks through the voices of Christy and Andrea: lovers and friends. The story begins during a cross-country skiing trip on Mt. Baker where the two find themselves tired and hungry and running out of daylight. They are befriended and given shelter by a sasquatch named Mickey, and after spending the night in the Mickey's cave, a love triangle develops with Mickey at its core. After several enjoyable days in the cave, Andrea becomes ill and thinks she may be pregnant. As Andrea and Christy prepare to leave, Mickey mentions that she may also be pregnant. (Yes, Mickey, the sasquatch, manifests itself in both genders.) Andrea believes that she's carrying Mickey's baby, and Mickey thinks she may be carrying Christy's baby. After Christy and Andrea leave the cave, Christy tries to generate some profitable press from the experience (as anyone could be expected to do), only to be embarrassed by the News of the World headline: "He fathered a bigfoot baby...and became a deadbeat dad.
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By K. Bunker VINE VOICE on May 4, 2014
Format: Paperback
This collection contains stories (and one poem) authored or co-authored by Eileen Gunn. Gunn's co-author for 7 of the pieces is Michael Swanwick, and for 2 others it is Rudy Rucker. Four stories are by Gunn alone.

For me this collection ultimately died of anemia; there was too little blood in its veins. Despite some fine writing on a sentence-by-sentence basis, I found the stories to be neither energetic plot-driven entertainment nor complex and thoughtful literary works. And neither did any of them (that I read) present any interesting or original speculative-fiction ideas.

Some notes on selected stories, starting (as the book does) with the ones written by Gunn alone:

"Up the Fire Road" is a rather hippy-ish story; one that I might have considered a charming example of its historical period if I'd read it in an anthology from the early 70s. There's some pot-smoking, some casual sex, a lot of "going with the flow," and a talking Sasquatch who seems to have a somewhat hallucinatory effect on people. It's typical of the collection in being mildly entertaining, but nothing more than that.

"Chop Wood, Carry Water" is the collection's closest approach to a story of some substance. It's told from the point of view of the 16th century Golem of Prague, and is effectively written in a melancholy tone. But the story never goes anywhere; the protagonist ponders the meaning of his life without ever having any interesting thoughts, and has some mild adventures in which nothing much is at stake.

"No Place to Raise Kids: A Tale of Forbidden Love" is a short-short in which Captain Kirk has eloped with a pregnant Mr. Spock. This sort of cutesy attempt at clever science fiction in-joking is unfortunately a repeating theme in several stories of this collection.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By earbrass on April 18, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Eileen Gunn is a master of the genre. She knows how to create great stories and the quality of her writing is on par with the past masters, like Fredric Brown, Jack Vance, Robert Sheckley, William Gibson, Ursula K. Leguin, et al. You cannot go wrong.
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More About the Author

Eileen Gunn is the author of the story collection Stable Strategies and Others and the co-editor of The WisCon Chronicles Two. Her fiction has received the Nebula Award in the US the and Sense of Gender Award in Japan, and been nominated for the Hugo, Philip K. Dick, and World Fantasy awards and short-listed for the James Tiptree, Jr. award. She is the editor/publisher of the late Infinite Matrix webzine and served for twenty-two years on the board of directors of the Clarion West Writers Workshop.

Recent Gunn stories available free online include 'Zeppelin City' (with Michael Swanwick), 'The Steampunk Quartet', and 'The Trains that Climb the Winter Tree,' (also written with Michael Swanwick) on Tor.com. Other stories are available on her website at www.EileenGunn.com.

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