Of Echoes Born
Reviewed by Jeff Baker
“Of Echoes Born” is the first short story collection by ‘Nathan Burgoine. (Bold Strokes Books, 2018.) Maybe better known for his novels, Burgoine has been one of the best writers in the shorter form working in the field of LGBT science fiction and fantasy in recent years. Now he has put together twelve stories linked together by theme and character, including the very clever idea of the story introductions being told by his character Ian through his unwanted gift of visions which include colors indicating emotional states or even sickness.
The deeper reds, the richer reds, the ones reaching within and spreading out like wings? Those reds change the world. People march with those reds, they defend with those reds, and they fight tooth and nail with those reds.
The bulk of the stories feature characters that may be semi-autobiographical; young men on their own after their families tossed them out for being gay. LGBT people living with the support of “chosen families.” And with a bit of magic, usually in the form of a character who has some form of prescient visions which sometimes help, sometimes can only offer comfort. Not every character gets a happy ending.
The stories, six new, six reprints, are linked though Burgoine’s use of his fictional town of Fuca, as well as locations which appear in other Burgoine stories (The Coffee shop “Bittersweets” appears in several stories in the collection as well as in Burgoine’s Christmas novella from last year “Handmade Holidays.”) Characters reappear as well; Bao, a high school friend of the protagonist in the opening story “There and Then” shows up in a few other stories, once referred to as “Officer Hotbody!” This feeling that it is all taking place in the same, real world works in the collection’s favor.
The plots run the gamut from a young man discovering that his unique powers can actually help; romance, both blooming and shattered; love and betrayal and even hope in the face of death. Characters run the gamut through the LGBT spectrum, ranging from clerks, writers, artists, Marion the mother hen to “The Village,” and, oh yes, Lightning Todd.
None of this would be any good if the stories and writing were not good, and ‘Nathan Burgoine is a magnificent writer. His storytelling ability fuels the collection, and he is able to pull off a very cool recursive bit which links the ending of the book to the beginning.
All in all, “Of Echoes Born” is an excellent first collection by a fine writer. Let us hope there will be many more.