I received a review copy of Apex Publication’s newest anthology UPSIDE DOWN: INVERTED TROPES IN STORYTELLING. This anthology is a treasure for both readers and writers. Editorial super team Jaym Gates and Monica Valentinelli did a splendid job compiling stories, poems and essays of well-trodden fantasy and science fiction tropes turned on their heads.
Unlike novels, anthologies give you the option of jumping around and reading at all different places in the book. Sometimes I do that right from the get-go, and I did the second time through with this anthology. But, my first time through, I was glued to each page from the very first to the last. The index of tropes and the stories that tackle them encouraged me to go back. Twice. The introduction sets the stage by getting into the comfort of tropes and the importance of them. “We all love comfort food. We all love surprises. A well-executed story trope, like a favorite meal, is always there when you need it, eager to satisfy. A chosen one destined to save the world. A love interest ready to transform your dull life…” -Jerry Gordon
It’s true. There is comfort in tropes. As readers, they give us something to hang our hat on and as writers we need to wield them. There is a fabulous array of authors such as Delilah S. Dawson, Alyssa Wong, Micheal Choi, Sunil Patel, and Micheal Matheson—to name a few—who take common tropes and do extraordinary things with them. Alex Shvartsman takes all that we count on when diving into an epic fantasy and riddles a satire native with “Nouns of Noun: A Mini Epic” that kept me chuckling. I was delighted by “Drafty as a Chainmail Bikini” by Kat Richardson, which comments of the absurdity of women’s armor in the fantasy genre.
Each story has its “WOW” moment. There are a few stories that stood out to me so strongly I had to go back and reread them and soak in the beauty again and again. That’s the thing about the written word. Stories can carry a certain weight or personal response that just clicks instantly. When that happens, it’s a beautiful thing.
In “The First Blood of Poppy Dupree” Delilah S. Dawson takes the trope of an unprepared preteen’s first period. She paints an incredible picture of a girl who knew it would come, adds some Greek and Southern Gothic mythology and writes a story I wish I could have read when I was a preteen. I was in Walmart wearing white terrycloth shorts when mine first came without a clue. Dawson took all the shame out of it and made getting your period truly badass, raw, and slightly terrifying.
“The White Dragon” by Alyssa Wong is one those stories that reels you in with every sentence and then when its ended, everything just washes over you. Wong built so much in so few words. She tackles the trope of Yellow Peril, which is the fear that Asia poses a dire threat to Western civilization. Wong’s characters are so deep and well conveyed. The layers of magic realism packs such a punch. It’s truly amazing.
“Those who Leave” by Micheal Choi tore my heart out and convinced me once and for all magic is in the world. Choi took the trope of the cold and calculating Asian scientist and built a world with hope, magic, and the ever-complicated mother/daughter relationship. Just gorgeous from start to finish. I teared up a little.
After the string of awesome stories, the impact of the essays detailing some tropes such as “Into the Labyrinth: The Heroine’s Journey” by AC Wise and “I’m Pretty Sure I’ve read this Before” by Patrick Hester really ties it all together. Each essay detailing basic story concepts somehow made every story I read prior more powerful.
There is whimsy and underlining darkness, heartbreak and satire, that flows well throughout the anthology. UPSIDE DOWN is really worth the grab!