Sunday, October 6, 2013

Jack Finney Finally in the US Kindle Store

   If you're over a certain age, chances are you read Jack Finney when you were in high school.  If memory serves, his wonderful short science fiction story "Of Missing Persons" could be found in high school literature textbooks for some time -- I know that's where I first read it.  I don't know if that story is still being included, but if it isn't that's sad for a number of reasons, one of which is the thought of kids who maybe don't care to read all that much finding themselves caught up in a story that is perhaps the archetypal Twilight Zone episode.
   In his non-fiction book on horror from 1950-1980, Danse Macabre, King spends a few highly complimentary pages on Finney, pointing out the affinity between Jack Finney's fantasies and Serling's television classic.  And he's right -- if you want short stories that embody the feel of the Twilight Zone, I can't think of anyone better.  Some come awfully close, but Finney nails it.
   This isn't to say that Finney owes a thing to Serling.  Finney was there first.
   He was a writer with quite a range; his work included science fiction and fantasy classics like The Body Snatchers (better known by its movie title of Invasion of the Body Snatchers) and Time and Again, crime novels like Five Against the House and Assault on a Queen, and the marvelous short stories you'll find collected in About Time.  His work was often filmed and chances are you've run across adaptations before (Good Neighbor Sam, Maxie, four movies based on The Body Snatchers, and the two crime novels already mentioned), and some day Robert Redford may actually get a film version of Time and Again into production.
   In short work such as "Of Missing Persons," "I'm Scared," "The Third Level," "The Face in the Photo," "Where the Cluetts Are," and others, Finney sets his stage with perfectly ordinary surroundings and ordinary people and then introduces the fantastic in a matter-of-fact manner that makes everything that follows as convincing as a piece of solid reporting; it's an approach that you find in the best Twilight Zone episodes and in the work of other excellent fantasists like Richard Matheson.
   Most of his crime novels are out-of-print, but here in the US, Simon & Schuster has kept a number of his fantasy titles available.  The Body Snatchers, Time and Again and its sequel From Time to Time, Three by Finney (including Marion's Wall, The Night People, and The Woodrow Wilson Dime), and the selection of his short stories About Time have all been in print as trade paperbacks for years.
   In November all these will finally be issued as ebooks here in the US.  If you enjoy excellent fantasy, if you loved Twilight Zone, you'll want to grab these immediately if you haven't read them already.
   I've only two criticisms about the Finney ebook releases:  1) They've been too long in coming, and 2) Where Finney's short fiction is concerned, I wish S&S was doing what Gateway has done for the UK Kindle releases and issued The Third Level and I Love Galesburg in the Springtime; the stories in About Time are taken from those collections, and it would have been nice to see both of those released for Kindle here in the US as well as in the UK.  But Finney's work is finally coming to Kindle, and that's great news for any fan of sf and fantasy.

   And a reminder: this month will see the release in both ebook and paperback formats of two short story collections by Gerald Kersh.  Faber Finds will release The Horrible Dummy, and The Best of Gerald Kersh (Valancourt has already reissued the excellent Nightshade and Damnations in paperback with an ebook in the works but not yet available).

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