Finalist for the Colorado Blue Spruce Award for Young Adult Fiction
Strangers and Beggars gathers together for the first time seventeen stories — one of them previously unpublished — by new talent, James Van Pelt, showcasing his explorations in science fiction, fantasy and horror. Human, compassionate and imaginative, Strangers and Beggars is a must-have collection from one of science fiction's most interesting newcomers.
"Van Pelt has eight honorable mentions in the latest year's best volume edited by Gardner Dozois. Only half of these are in Strangers and Beggars, which means it should be only the first of many fine collections."
—The Denver Post
"Foreboding stories rarely have upbeat endings, but Van Pelt's do. Edgy and usually creepy, they characteristically let a little light flicker at the end of their dark trajectories because Van Pelt thinks that people can, though they may not, solve their problems. When a teacher is finally caught by the immense spider that no one will remove from her classroom, she begins seeing her new situation as an opening to transcendence. When a businessman of the future doffs the "specs" that keep him perpetually tapped into the markets long enough for a tete-a-tete with his fiancee, he broaches, albeit unawares, the possibility that he can overcome his "infodiction." When Van Pelt re-presents Wells' Time Machine from the point of view of the Eloi girl who becomes attached to the time traveler, he leaves her figuring out how the Eloi can protect themselves from the Morlocks. A refreshingly optimistic bunch of sf-inflected horror tales, all seductive or at least charming, with a futuristic baseball yarn as a delightful comic capper."
"Love gets sealed with the sacrifice of a finger, monsters roam high school hallways and invisible dwarves function as angels of death on a city bus: the fantastical intertwines with the quotidian in James Van Pelt's Strangers and Beggars. The 17 stories, divided into four sections (Teaching, Love, Death, Time), contemplate modern dystopias, offering, in the words of Bruce Holland Rogers's introduction, stories of "things gone very wrong" that still manage to feel uplifting not "new maps of hell... [but] new maps out of hell..."
"In these seventeen remarkable speculative fiction stories engaging characters detour into bizarre and nightmarish worlds...In Van Pelt’s world, the universe is tilted off-center but it is not unjust. These stories are engaging and wonderful. Jim Van Pelt is becoming recognized as a major talent in the speculative fiction genre..."
"A collection of short fiction is a writer's bravest act...Van Pelt's work is consistent, strong, and occasionally crackling. Like many of his protagonists, he's answered a difficult challenge well."
"Strangers and Beggars contains seventeen small gifts, each one of them precious to speculative fiction readers...What impresses me most about Van Pelt’s work is that he is not afraid to give his characters hope in even the direst situations. Where some writers would leave their protagonist with no way out of their predicaments, Van Pelt decidedly gives his happy endings, even in his most horrific tales. This hope and happiness is a warm comfort in these days of uncertainty."
"Full of riches...a treasure trove of stories on everything from baseball to sorrow to the surveillance culture."
"Wonderful, inventive, moving short stories...the best of them are here, in a single volume, that belongs on every SF fan's shelf."
—Robert J. Sawyer
"James Van Pelt has a gift for opening strange new windows on familiar events...Read these stories and feel your mind stretch."
"This collection...not only enthralls and amazes, but reaffirms this author's rare ability to remind us what it is to be human. Highly recommended."
—Julie E. Czerneda
"Jim Van Pelt is one of those rare writers who swoop effortlessly across the landscape of the fantastic. I read him with admiration and envy."
—James Patrick Kelly
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Van Pelt, a high school English teacher, is also a full-time science fiction, fantasy and horror writer (among other things). His short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Asimov's, Analog, Talebones, Realms of Fantasy, Weird Talesand others. His books include five short story collections and two novels, available here on Fairwood Press's site.
He has been a Nebula finalist, a John W. Campbell Award finalist, and has been nominated for Pushcart prizes. His first collection was named a Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association, and his last collection won the Colorado Book Award. Many of his short stories have appeared in various Year’s Best collections.