“A Betrayal and Other Stories” by Brian Biswas

Fans of Night Gallery, The Twilight Zone, vintage science fiction, magic realism, irrealism, and–well, fans of good stories and good literature–you need to get your hands on this beautiful volume:  A Betrayal and Other Stories by Brian Biswas

51qfMimtj-L[1]  “The world is wonderful and full of magic. He who does not believe it so is dead.” –the narrator of “In the Garden”


Brian Biswas has published his fiction in professional magazines

for more than four decades. How would you ever find them all online now, or in bookstores?

Well, you wouldn’t.

The beauty of ebooks and anthologies is finding a collection of stories all in one handy place.

I read Brian Biswas for the first time via Perihelion Science Fiction ezine, and as always, the editorial judgment of Sam Bellotto Jr was vindicated. Sam has an eye for intelligent writing, fresh prose, and something beyond the usual offerings of science fiction short stories. Do not be deceived by the sweet, nostalgic vibe to these stories. Dark undercurrents can swiftly turn the fantastic into a cautionary tale or a reminder that even the best of us can throw away our values and betray our humanity when faced with unexpected temptations. The challenge is to talk about these things in a book review without spoiler after spoiler! For now, let me say a lonely light housekeeper welcoming a stranger in the night, and a scholar who is followed around by a strange bird, left me screaming why, why, why did you go over the edge and… do that.  And that’s the beauty of fiction right there, exploring the darkest recesses of the human soul, the complex motivations, the questions nobody can answer.

The strange, vivid imagery of dreams

is a hallmark of all Brian’s fiction. I love his attention to visuals. A blue parrot is more than just a bird in the backstory in “A Journey through the Wormhole.” And the scientist, who appears to be overly trusting and optimistic, pulls a surprise twist on the reporter looking for a scoop. Throughout the story, a sense of irrealism is underscored in the way these men are not named–they remain the scientist and the reporter throughout.
Truly, “A Journey through the Wormhole” is one of the best stories ever published in Perihelion Science Fiction, and if forced to choose one favorite in an anthology full of great stories, this one has to be it.
I will not talk about “The Lake of Flies,” except to say one of the visuals is so vivid and memorable, I have yet to un-see it.

Pulling out the binoculars, Max saw that the surface of the lake was covered by a thick layer of flies. There must have been hundreds of thousands, feeding on the kettle’s algae. The sun reflecting off the flies’ wings made the surface resemble a gigantic compound eye. A glistening ommatidium. Max gazed upon it, mesmerized. He felt as if he was peering into the mind of an intelligence that had taken over the lake and was lying in wait. He did not know for what. But it seemed to be drawing him in.

Fly Eye (This doesn’t even come close! Multiply exponentially…)  Pixabay photo by ekamelev 

In “This Old Man,”

several types of images recur, from rainbows formed by the Fountain of Saint Gabriel to iridescent wings and birdsong, and most vividly, a lizard who makes three appearances, always right before (spoiler deleted).
“A lizard is a symbol of transformation (among other things),” Brian messaged me after I mentioned my fascination with the lizard. “If a lizard’s tail is cut off—” (more spoilers deleted). “Now I don’t expect readers to ‘get that’ but I enjoy putting clues into stories!”
That, he does, and that’s the secret to keeping cerebral fiction fun, fun, fun. Sam Bellotto Jr loves finding humor in science fiction, and Brian Biswas is a reliable source.

FELLOW AUTHORS

reading this, take note. Brian emailed me:


“I’ve been getting rejections for 40 yearsI’m used to them. They come with the territory!
My first was from The Paris Review—when I was 20 … it was for The Bridge, which George Plimpton called Hawthornesque, but not long enough for them to print. I see it as an introduction to the magical realism stories that follow in the book!

Don’t you love hearing from authors firsthand? I do!
And don’t you hate knowing you haven’t figured out what really happened, so you need the author to explain? (No? Well, lucky you! You’re sharper than I am.)
This is not a spoiler, I swear. And I needed to know this:

Oh–and rest assured!–the narrator of the Bridge doesn’t drown (the story is told in the first person, so he must survive to tell the tale).

If someone appears to be dead, even beyond all doubt, I’m the one who keeps hoping the character will appear in a future chapter with an explanation of what really happened. (Novelist Rick Bylina probably winces and cringes every time he hears the name Phil, thanks to me and my insistence that not all is as it appears to be.)
By the way, Mr. Biswas, first-person narration is no guarantee that our protagonist will survive to the end of the story. Darn those sneaky authors, these days!

Brian is sneaky, but in a good way. E.g.,

In fact, if you read closely, you’ll see that the narrator is the same as the narrator of the next story–A Betrayal. The second story could almost be seen as a continuation of the first. Our narrator is on a journey in both, but in A Betrayal he has entered “some other province, some other land …”

Irrealism

Reading “Betrayal” made me look up irrealism – The belief that phenomenalism and physicalism are alternative “world-versions,” both useful in some circumstances, but neither capable of fully capturing the other.
Also, an estrangement from our generally accepted sense of reality.
Well, that makes it all the more challenging for the reader–and fun!–especially for readers who love puzzles.
And what else is fun? Following an author on Twitter!

  Retweeted  

“Irreal fiction challenges readers by representing the world, not in terms of an exact mimetic representation of what we see every day but in a way that undermines our very sense of what is real.”  

 Magic Realism


“The first half of my anthology is magical realism (this would be the ‘hard to ponder’ stories),” Brian emailed me. “These are Stories I would summarize as ‘many pointers to an unknown meaning.’ Unlike a dream, in which events can be pretty random, a magical realism story is basically realistic—with one or two magical elements. The reader has to determine the story’s meaning. E.g. the doctor’s patient with the unusual illness (or not?) or is it the doctor with the ailment? The narrator of ‘The Bridge’ who sinks slowly into the water’s depths after his failed rescue … And don’t get me started on ‘This Old Man’! The second half of the book is straightforward science fiction, and many of those stories were published in Perihelion. Though even there I try to toss in a magical detail at some point!”

The science in this fiction is accurate,

plausible, and often mind-blowing. I especially love the details in “The Worms of Titan”:

Titan is a dark place,

its surface one-tenth as bright as Earth. The daytime temperature is about ninety-eight kelvins. Titan’s atmosphere is composed primarily of nitrogen (ninety-seven percent) and methane (two percent), with the remainder consisting of trace amounts of noxious elements such as hydrogen cyanide. A forbidding world, certainly, but one teeming with organic compounds, many deep within lakes that cover much of the surface, and which make human exploration difficult. It was a welcome surprise, then, when in the spring of 2186 the first rovers discovered those same compounds near the superstratum of Titan’s rocky regions.

The Titan Life Project,

as it was known on Earth, was the brainchild of Dr. Raul Ravencroft. Raul was….

BrianBiswasTweet

#gottaloveBrianBiswas!    Find him on Twitter: @BrianBiswas


All nineteen stories are startling, thought-provoking, fun to ponder

and filled with mystery (yes, even “The Lake of Flies”). Human nature never fails to surprise, startle, or shock us, even though we already know we are capable of the diabolical wickedness and angelic altruism.

Not a single lemon in the bunch! Buy with confidence.


A Betrayal and Other Stories is available now, paperback and ebook, from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and–soon–from bookstores everywhere. See Brian’s website for more information (www.brianbiswas.com).
The cover by Australian artist Kim Dingwall is an image from the title story.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. The Bridge      

II. A Betrayal

III. The Crystal

IV. Tramp

V. In the Garden

VI. The Museum of North African Treasures

VII. This Old Man

VIII. Sedgefield’s Diary

IX. The Strange Story of Saxon’s Hill

X. The Lake of Flies

XI. Solitary Confinement

XII. Love in a High-Tech Age

XIII. The Roses of Charon

XIV. A Journey Through the Wormhole

XV. 2038: A Mars Odyssey

XVI. The Miners of Erin

XVII. Barnegat Inn

XVIII. The Worms of Titan

XIX. Puff

“The Bridge” published in Penny Dreadful (December 1991),” reprinted in Cafe Irreal (May 2006) and Tien Ve (June 2013);

“A Betrayal” published in Penny Dreadful (September 1999), reprinted in Cafe Irreal (February 2000) and the Irreal Anthology (November 2013);

“The Crystal” published in Penny Dreadful (July 2000); “In the Garden” published in Cafe Irreal (February 2010);
“The Museum of North African Treasures” published in Lost Worlds (April 1993);
“This Old Man” published in Skive (June 2011);
“Solitary Confinement” published in Midnight Zoo (January 1992);
“Love in a High-Tech Age” published in Aoife’s Kiss (June 2012);
“A Journey Through the Wormhole” published in Perihelion Science Fiction (June 2013);
“2038: A Mars Odyssey” published in Perihelion Science Fiction (September 2014);
“Barnegat Inn” published in Perihelion Science Fiction (January 2015);
“The Worms of Titan” published in Perihelion Science Fiction (June 2016);
“Puff ” published in Perihelion Science Fiction (February 2017).

Pen-and-ink illustrations complement each of these nineteen stories spanning the literary genres of magical realism, horror, and science fiction.

In the title story, “A Betrayal,” a doctor travels into the countryside to help a young patient, only to deliver a diagnosis with which the girl’s family vehemently disagrees. The peculiar narrator of “Sedgefield’s Diary” recoils in horror when he discovers that the hourly diary he keeps has taken on a life of its own and now threatens his very existence. The bereaved wife in “The Lake of Flies” takes matters into her own hands when she learns the truth surrounding her husband’s death. In “Barnegat Inn,” a strange visitation becomes the background for a poignant recitation on the nature of time. The themes of loss and betrayal between rival siblings are explored in “The Crystal,” a story pulsating with an ethereal, otherworldly quality. And in “A Journey Through the Wormhole,” a decades-old feud between rival scientists threatens to upend a scientific revolution.   Publisher: Rogue Star Press (May 20, 2018)


My 5-star Amazon and Goodreads review is short and terse, in part because I’m awaiting the next issue of Perihelion to go live (September 2018), but you can find the short version here:

 Brian Biswas has published over sixty short stories in the United States as well as internationally.

A11U9raJD0L._UX250_[1].jpg He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He is listed in the International Writers and Authors Who’s Who, Marquis Who’s Who, and the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Brian writes in a literary style reminiscent of magical realism, irrealism, or fabulism, which attempts to convey a slightly exaggerated but internally consistent sense of reality. He also writes straightforward science fiction, fantasy, and horror (often tinged with fantastic elements).

He was born in Columbus, Ohio, received a B.A. in Philosophy from Antioch College in 
Yellow Springs, Ohio and an M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his wife, Elizabeth, and an ever changing assortment of animals.

And he works full-time for a company that just featured him in their newsletter:


BrianBis


From: “Information Technology Services” <info@…..>
Subject: Monday Morning News June 11, 2018

In May, Brian’s “A Betrayal and Other Stories,” an anthology, was published by Rogue Star Press. It’s available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and bookstores worldwide.

Alice Whittenburg, coeditor of Cafe Irreal, a journal that comes out of Europe, published an in-depth, glowing review June 18, Reading at the Irreal Cafe: A Betrayal and Other Stories by Brian Biswas.

Perihelion Science Fiction book critic Carol Kean also posted raves like the one you are reading right here and now. 🙂

Back to the company newsletter–

Brian tells us more, below:

Is this positive review a big break for you?

Good reviews are so important for selling a book. But short story collections are notoriously poor sellers.

What do you enjoy about writing?

The satisfaction of getting a story out of my head and onto paper.

Describe your writing habits.

I write or edit just about every day. You have to do that. Otherwise, you lose momentum and it can be hard to pick things back up. Ideas flow easier when you work at it every day.

What keeps you motivated?

I can’t not write. Stories just bubble out.

Bubble Ladysource

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About carolkean

novelist, reviewer, editor, book critic for Liberty Island and Perihelion Science Fiction; native prairie/guerilla gardener; champion of liberty, indie authors & underdogs; one of the top two reviewers in Editors &Preditors Poll 2015; Amazon Vine, NetGalley Top Reviewer
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One Response to “A Betrayal and Other Stories” by Brian Biswas

  1. carolkean says:

    You can buy A Betrayal and Other Stories at Lillicat Publishers or from Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. Or you could order it at your local bookstore.

    Like

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