by Terry Bisson
Publisher: PM Press, 2011
Differentiating Bisson’s writing from his political work is hard. In his The Left Left Behind, Bisson states you can’t separate his politics from his writing (101). So maybe it’s normal that whenever I read Bisson, it’s always framed knowing he was involved with anti-imperialism and anti-racist work. I easily read and enjoy short stories like “The Stamp” or “Billy and the Circus Girl.” Both are powerful and fun tales whose impact in brevity echoes Sturgeon. But I can’t shake the memory that this same author, Bisson, helped me remember the power, impact, and importance of John Brown and Nat Turner.
Bisson packs 13 witty, terse, and engaging short stories in. Working through Bisson’s fiction and science fiction while knowing a bit about his political work, and reading copies of his Anti-Klan writing and editing from the 1980s, a couple things become clear. First, Bisson knows how to tell a story — often a very weird, funny story. Second, he easily connects stories to current events (See “Pirates of the Somali Coast.”) Third, Bisson models for political activists, direct actors, and authors of all genres that you can do multiple things. We can write engaging fiction AND engage in political work. We can engage in political work AND tell powerful and fun stories. We can be politically involved, radically or revolutionary or whatever we choose, and still keep our humor, our joy, and share with others.
Bisson’s stories can be read straight through. I chose to read a couple at a time over a period of months. Read, savor, and set down for a bit. Perfect. No need to read them in order.