When my writing group, Hopefull Monsters, disbanded last year, I wondered how many of the members might be done with writing. I suspected a few might be (only time will tell if I’m right), but I knew Richard Zwicker wasn’t. Rich was probably the most prolific of the Monsters—I think he sold 50+ stories over his years in the Hopefull Monsters, and if not fifty, it sure seemed like it. I still see his stories popping up here and there in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Rich’s stories are almost always droll, clever and very inventive, so his continued success isn’t really any surprise.
If you missed Rich’s work in various magazines, you now have a chance to get a good sample his stories all in one place. Rich recently published his first short story collection, Walden Planet and Other Stories. It’s chock full of fifteen stories filled with “Wise-cracking robots, slow-motion bullets, time machines that don’t work the way they’re supposed to, evil holograms . . .” and quite a bit more—yeah, I stole that from the jacket blurb, but why reinvent the words when the author has already said it so well.
[I guess I should officially make the disclaimer, if it’s isn’t obvious already, that I know Rich personally, and even critiqued early drafts of some of the stories in the collection, but I haven’t been paid to say nice things about him or his book—heck, I didn’t even get an advanced copy of his collection!]
I’ve read many of the stories included in the volume (I haven’t read them all, I must admit), and my favorite would have to be “Holo, Goodbye.” It’s filled with Rich’s trademark humor and wise cracking characters. Also, like many of Rich’s tales, it’s a science-fiction mystery with clever twists and turns and a “gumshoe” in the most classic of traditions. Rich has truly excelled in this “guilty-pleasure,” subgenre of speculative fiction. But this collection has more range than that, as stories like “Stellar Dust and Mirrors,” set on a delivery ship with an unusual cargo, show. No matter the topic, the writing is lively and fun, and these stories go down as easily as your favorite dessert.
In all, Walden Planet and Other Stories is an enjoyable read, and highly recommended.