It could easily be said that I fawn over Dan Simmons. Or at least over his writing. Hyperion remains my favorite Sci-fi novel of all time, followed closely by Fall of Hyperion. My review of Illium was quoted in my book club’s monthy catalog (whoop-te-do), and I was nearly apopleptic with glee when, thanks to the HarperCollins Firstlook program, I received a galley copy of Olympos almost two months before publication. My enthusiasm even prompted me to pimp the reprints of two of Dan’s horror novels in recent months.
What can I say? Our man Dan can write.
Hyperion was my first contact with Dan Simmons’ writings, a book I actually chose at random in the bookstore because it said “Hugo Award Winner” on the cover–of all the stupid reasons to buy a book, it was the damned cover, tsk tsk–and said book would become my ticket to ride a wave of great literature from a surprisingly talented author. Accordingly, thanks to a touch of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), I strove to find, purchase, and ultimately secure among my private stacks every published novel or anthology with Simmons’ writings in them. I tend to do this with authors I like–seek out and gather those rosebuds while I may–and eventually I read them all. Hey, one day I’ll be an old man and won’t be able to go shopping anymore. So I need to have those piles of books ready way beforehand. (Chuckle) Some of these have been hard to find, some not-so-much, and some purchased twice because, well, not to be a princess or anything, but I like nice things. And dog-eared copies of my favorite books simply won’t do.
One anthology that has been particularly difficult to find is called “Prayers to Broken Stones.” While I’m sure I could have found a dog-eared copy on Abebooks, I tend to only resort to non-local dealers as a last resort–I steadfastly support my local booksellers and they help me find great stuff. Luckily it was at one of those local stores, The Eloquent Page*, that I found a copy. “Prayers to Broken Stones” contains not only the original short stories that would later become the novels Hyperion and Carrion Comfort, it contains many other little gems, including his first story ever published, and the story of how Dan was “discovered” by none other than Harlen Ellison.
In the introduction to “Prayers to Broken Stones,” Ellison tells of a workshop where he discovered Dan, and I don’t wish to ruin it here. The intro is immediately followed by Dan’s first “published” short story, the one from that very workshop, “The River Styx Runs Upstream.” The tale of the writers’ workshop, as well as the short story itself, is something that any Simmons fan will be glad to discover. And the confirmation by Ellison that Simmons could perhaps be “the bard” of our times, as I’ve often told many associates who roll their eyes at me, is one I’ll treasure for a long time to come. I find it inspiring, as I try to wind my way through the 2nd draft of my own first novel, that both Ellison and Simmons have the same take on writing–you don’t have to be a “horror” writer or a “sci-fi” writer or “insert genre here” writer. Don’t let the pedants shove you into a niche, just write.
That gives me hope. And makes “Prayers to Broken Stones” another “must have” for my personal library.
One last thing: if you’re a fan of Hyperion or Endymion, there’s also an interesting little story involving Wizards, the Shrike, and farcasters called “Death of the Centaur” that you might find intriguing.
Let me know what you think!
*Interesting (to me) footnote: The Eloquent Page is also the name of the bookstore run by Rogatien Remillard (Uncle Rogi) in the Julian May series The Galacic Milieu. The proprietor of this local store in real life was completely unaware of the association with May’s characters or the fictional bookstore, but I have to say that except for the lack of one Marcel the Cat, and a female proprietor instead of an old but constantly rejuvenating metapsychic man, the resemblance is uncanny.