Today I’m presenting to you a book that I stumbled across on one of my many “what extra books can I add to my already unattainable to-read list” internet jaunts. The title, and subsequently, the blurb and format were so beguiling that I felt it should be added to said list immediately. Then I noticed that the kindle price was less than $5, so I decided, “what the hey, let’s live a little!” and duly added it to my kindle hoard. I speak of none other than speculative/sci-fi/fantasy/humour anthology Help Fund My Robot Army!!! & Other Improbably Crowdfunding Projects, edited by John Joseph Adams. I intend to submit this to my Oddity Odyssey Reading Challenge under the categories of “odd title” (note the three exclamation marks and ampersand), and “odd language element”. Its inclusion in this second category is due to the fact that this anthology is composed entirely of imaginary crowdfunding pitches, as might be found on Kickstarter.
While I am familiar with the concept of crowdfunding and I’m aware that Kickstarter exists, I have never spent any time perusing that site. Apparently though, many fleshlings wile away the hours surfing this site for projects they might like to fund, or simply to leave humorous comments on the less likely of such projects. So if you are one of these fleshlings, this book may well be for you. Let’s dive in.
If you’re a regular backer of Kickstarters, you’ve probably seen some unique crowdfunding projects in your time. But one thing all of those campaigns—boringly!—had in common was: They abided by the physical laws of the universe!
HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!! is an anthology of science fiction/fantasy stories told in the form of fictional crowdfunding project pitches, using the components (and restrictions) of the format to tell the story. This includes but is not limited to: Project Goals, Rewards, User Comments, Project Updates, FAQs, and more. The idea is to replicate the feel of reading a crowdfunding pitch, so that even though the projects may be preposterous in the real world, they will feel like authentic crowdfunding projects as much as possible.
So if what you’ve always been looking for in a Kickstarter—and couldn’t find—was a project that allowed you to SUMMON DEMONS, DEFY GRAVITY, WIELD MAGIC, or VIOLATE CAUSALITY, then HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!! & Other Improbable Crowdfunding Projects may be just the thing you’ve been looking for.
There are 33 stories in this anthology and the majority of them are written by accomplished (to a greater or lesser degree) authors in the sci-fi/spec fiction realm. Every single one of them follows the format of a Kickstarter crowdfunding pitch and while some others who have reviewed this collection on Goodreads mentioned that this format quickly got stale for them, I didn’t share that feeling as I was reading. In fact, I quite enjoyed seeing how so many different authors worked within the same – pretty limiting – restrictions to produce some very engaging stories.
The collection includes tales from the sci-fi, speculative and fantasy genres but there are a few recurring themes in the bunch. There are a number of pitches dealing with time travel, quite a few robot-related stories, a couple to do with granting wishes and desires. While the repetition in format didn’t put me off any, the repetition of themes did in some cases. For instance there are two stories that are very similar in that they relate to pitches concerned with raising enough dosh to raise certain ancient deities. I enjoyed (and chuckled repeatedly) at Help Summon The Most Holy Folded One! by Harry Connolly but was a bit so-so towards Bring About the Halloween Eternal! by Seanan McGuire, which featured at the close of the collection and had a very similar tone and plot to Connolly’s tale. Similarly, I was less enthused by each time-travel tale that I encountered and I felt that the selection process for the stories could have been tighter to avoid including tales that were very similar.
There’s a lot of humour going on in these stories (especially in some of the “comment threads”) and I particularly enjoyed Save the Photophobic Hemoglobivores with the Sanguine Reserve by Mur Lafferty, about creating a retreat for endangered vampires, Life Sized Arena Tetris! by David Malki!, whose title is self-explanatory (and a cracker of an idea in my opinion), and of course, the aforementioned Help Summon the Most Holy Folded One!, about the attempted raising of an ancient taco deity. But not all the pitches are included for comic relief. There’s the subtly sinister dystopian A Memorial to the Patriots by Jake Kerr, the touching plea of a mother in crisis, I Want to Be a Lioness by Chuck Wendig, the slightly bizarre medical breakthrough of So Juicy Transforming Strips by Matt Williamson and the bittersweet sting of grief unprocessed in Jerome 3.0 by Jason Gurley.
Be Careful What You Wish For by Michael J. Sullivan has inspired me to seek out W. W. Jacob’s original story, The Monkey’s Paw (another one for the mountainous TBR pile – at least it’s a short story) and, ironically, Spoilerfree: A Device for 21st Century Entertainment Living by Jeremiah Tolbert has lodged in my brain as one of the most memorable (and devilishly cheeky!) stories in the group.
Overall, I appreciated the fresh format of this short story collection and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a bit of sci-fi and fantasy and is looking for some bite-sized chunks of originality and fun from a whole range of accomplished authors.
Progress toward Oddity Odyssey Challenge Goal: 5/16
To find out more about the Oddity Odyssey Challenge (and join in!) just click on the pretty image at the start of this post.
Until next time,