The Unreliable Narrator

Ursula K. Le Guin: “What the majority of our critics and teachers call ‘literature’ is still modernist realism. All other forms of fiction – westerns mysteries science fiction fantasy romance historical regional you name it – is dismissed as ‘genre.’” The Wave Of The Mind

By dismissed I sense she means: regarded as inferior and less authentic as personal expression. On Spec has gone though difficulties regarding grants because the quality of their genre fiction has been deemed not up to literary snuff.throne03


I’ve recently read three excellent collections of short stories: Casserole Diplomacy: On Spec’s 25th Anniversary Retrospective collection; World Enough and Crime a collection from Carrick Publishing; and Peter Unwin’s collection ‘Life Without Death’ (When We Were Old). I am an On Spec subscriber, I know many of the authors included in ‘Enough,’ Peter and I are friends.

Each collection is quite different and yet very much the same. The stories are all well-crafted, some with sudden bursts of violence, unexpected endings, poetic insights into personal realizations and the also the human condition. Many have a bracing humor.


the cold seat

Peter’s stories have a consistent tone, a direct look at men and women under the stresses of family, romance and their own needs. Insightful, sometimes playful & often surprising. Ending rush up when you least expect them and a few times rewrite everything you’ve read – which is a technique used at times in the other two books of short stories.

On Spec’s stories go from hard core sci-fi, space opera, sword & spell, folk lore and real poetry. The same holds true for the Crime Enough collection – some of which would be at home at On Spec – locked-door mystery, cozy, police procedural, smart old ladies and even some real poetry.


double tanked

LeGuin’s comment always comes to mind when read ‘genre’ fiction because when I tell others I enjoy reading outside the notion of modern realism it’s as if I’m not reading literature that counts. Frankly I’ve had it up to ‘here’ with searing, tender novels about childhood abuse, drug abuse, dying parents and losing a lover. I can get that modern realism people around me.

Three collections of authentic-voice, fiction that all play with the same literary notions: narrators who are unaware as the reader is aware, unreliable, sardonic, and sometimes as unprepared for the revelations as we the readers are. All highly recommended.

On Spec   Peter Unwin   World Enough


January 3 – attending – HOT DAMN! It’s a Queer Slam featuring Johnny Trinh

Hot Damn

January 18 – hosting – Out of the Fire – a fundraiser for Kyle Andrews



The Unreliable Narrator

yes I was there when it happened

but I wasn’t looking

yes my eyes where opened

no I wasn’t asleep

I wasn’t focused on my cell phone

I just wasn’t looking

you know what I mean

I guess I was thinking about something else

no I can’t remember what

yes I know this is important

and I wish I could help you

wasn’t there anyone there

I can’t remember

I didn’t notice who else was there

I had things on my mind;

no I don’t know what things

I was lost in my thoughts

I sensed something going on

but I couldn’t be bothered

focusing on it

I knew someone else would hear

would do something

so I wouldn’t have to

but I guess no one did

least ways not till

you showed up

so someone must have called

it wasn’t me

I was busy doing nothing

that’s an art you know

to be able to do nothing

to just tune out the world

so completely

to be present in it

but unaware of it

of what is going on around you

it doesn’t happen often for me either

but for a few moments I reach that sacred point

that transcendence of self

of the moment

and now you tell me this happened

in my moment

and I have to believe you

I see the evidence in front of me now

as I look around

yes I was there and not there

so I can’t help you


gutter bowl

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