British Fiction Focus

A Dangerous Game

In recent years, no one publisher has done as much for the short form of speculative fiction in Britain as Solaris. Since the summer, they’ve released Reach for Infinity (in the US and in the UK), the latest volume of Jonathan Strahan’s continuing chronicle of the future history of humanity—reviewed right here by yours truly—alongside the eighth edition of The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year (US/UK) and the third in the superb Solaris Rising series (US/UK).

And there’s much more to come in the coming months. Fearsome Magics (US/UK), the follow-up to The New Solaris Book of Fantasy, is out in early October—on the same day, indeed, as Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets (US/UK) from Solaris’ sister imprint Abaddon, which proposes to showcase the great detective through a decidedly unlikely lens.

Just this week, readers of When Gravity Falls were treated to an early look at another of the plentiful collections Solaris has on the cards. Dangerous Games (US/UK) is due in December, and it looks to meet, or even exceed, the high standards set by Jonathan Oliver’s previous projects.

In a world ruled by chance, one rash decision could bring down the house, one roll of the dice could bring untold wealth, or the end of everything.

The players have gathered around the table, each to tell their story—often dark, always compelling. Within you will find tales of the players and the played, lives governed by games deadly, weird, or downright bizarre.

Bringing together tales of the weird and the macabre, Dangerous Games is a diverse collection of voices, featuring incredible new fiction by Chuck Wendig, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Lavie Tidhar, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Paul Kearney, Libby McGugan, Yoon Ha Lee, Gary Northfield, Melanie Tem, Hillary Monahan, Tade Thompson, Rebecca Levene, Ivo Stourton, Gary McMahon, Robert Shearman, Nik Vincent, Helen Marshall, and Pat Cadigan.

And it has quite the cover, doesn’t it?

When I asked about the impetus behind Dangerous Games, editor Jonathan Oliver—of End of the Road and House of Fear fame—was kind enough to share a little insight into the origins of the anthology:

Dangerous Games must have come, in part, from my years as a gamer. I got into RPGs in my early twenties and have been part of the same gaming group for years. However, while one of the stories in the new anthology does feature roleplaying, having an entire collection of stories on that one subject would have been restrictive, produced something too narrow. Instead, I got to thinking about what games tell us about ourselves. After all, gaming is everywhere now. Whether you play the odd bit of Xbox on a Friday night, roll strange many-sided dice while consulting arcane lists of statistics, or fart about with Angry Birds on your iPhone, virtually everybody is a gamer. And we all play for different reasons—some out of a sense of desperation, a desire to fill a hole (just witness the ranks of blank-faced folks sitting in front of slot machines in Las Vegas), some to test themselves to the limits (check out the latest round of pictures on the web of folks scaling the world’s tallest buildings) and some to play out fantasies of what could be, or explore imaginative worlds and scenarios.

The short story is (though I would say this, wouldn’t I?) going through something of a renaissance at the moment. There are so many talented new writers out there and many established writers whose fiction I have admired for a while. I felt it was important to celebrate this diversity of voices and imaginations in the field and I put together this collection with that in mind. It was a real pleasure to work with writers both new and familiar, and I do think that I’ve got the very best out of each contributing voice. At the end of the day, I put together the kind of anthology I’d like to read as a fan, and the hope is that I’m passing on that pleasure to people who come to this book.

As a gamer myself, I’m keen to see what the array of authors Jonathan Oliver has lined up do with a subject so near and dear to my heart… though I’m a touch trepidatious, too, given how often gaming is misrepresented in fiction by those who think they know more about the medium than they do, in truth.

Gideon Smith amazon buy linkThat said, this anthology is clearly in the care of an editor with a passion for playing, so I’m optimistic about its prospects.

We’ll see one way or the other when Dangerous Games is released this very December. Get ready to roll those bones, folks!


Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative Scotsman, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com. He’s been known to tweet, twoo.

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