Paper Cities is a collection of urban fantasy in the truest sense of the term: stories of the fantastic from or about the city and all the wonderment and horror that entails. I imagine most people would prefer to think of cities as dumb beasts, mere collections of brick and mortar, marble and steel, men and women, children and the dead. Yet people who think of society not as a collective organism but as a loose gathering of people only peripherally affected by each other would be under a mistaken impression. Cities are alive: they breathe, they think, and they dream. They are the loom that knits together past and present and future, weaving the living and the dead, the animate and the inanimate into a sum much bigger than the total of its parts.
The writers here collected by Senses Five Press and Ekaterina Sedia understand that. Not only have they channeled intoxicating and surprising places into these paper-and-ink windows, but some of the stories will put the feet of anyone who reads them on the road to understanding that cities are alive.
Before we get to the royalty of this collection, I'd like to also touch base with the high rollers. "Ghost Market" by Greg van Eekhout is well executed, shocking us into a reality where the essence of your life is collected at your death and sealed up in a little bottle for clientèle with the right cash. Steve Berman's "Tearjerker" seals us off in a city gone weird, where tears are drugs and ink-bled words writhe on flesh, and everyone just tries to get by. Ben Peek's "The Funeral, Ruined" chokes our throat with ashes and chills our skin with horror against the backdrop of a city built around a giant crematorium in a world where people need not die. "Down to the Silver Spirits" by Kaaron Warren sets that horror to quivering in our insides, climbing up our spines like the tiny hands of drowned children. At last, "The Age of Fish, Post-flowers" (Anna Tambour) and "The Last Escape" (Barth Anderson) give us back some distance, allowing us to engage our intellects in social science fiction: the dissolution of our cities in the face of monster onslaught, for one, and our head-in-the-sand herd mentality for the other. Any of these stories will leave you contemplative and replete with satisfaction.