Eighty-Nine: spec fic from Literary Mix Tapes – review

Eighty NineLiterary Mix Tapes is an imprint of eMergent Publishing. They have a pretty cool concept: Anthologies of speculative fiction, based around music, all edited by the incomparable Jodi Cleghorn. If you recognise that name, it’s because I talked about her recently with her work on the 100 Stories For Queensland anthology that featured my short story, The Speaking Tree. Jodi really is a rising star in the editing world and I can say from experience that she’s a pleasure to work with. Literary Mix Tapes is her baby and she’s producing some great books. She released Deck The Halls, where each story was inspired by a line from the Christmas song. Then there was Nothing But Flowers, inspired by the Talking Heads song. I have a story, Fear Is The Sin, in the LMT anthology, Tiny Dancer: Shadows at the Stage Door, due out next year. That one is inspired by the Elton John song, with each yarn being drawn from a line of the song. (My line was “Jesus freaks, out in the street” and I’m very proud of the story I came up with. I’ll be sure to mention here when that book is out.)

In the meantime, there’s Eighty-Nine. Rather than a particular song, this one takes a playlist of music from the year 1989 and has the authors weave together speculative fiction stories using their alloted song and any political or historical event from the same year. The result is a book of incredible variety and diversity.

I remember 1989 very clearly, so the music and events portrayed through these stories is particularly nostalgic. But even if you weren’t born back then, there’s a lot to like in this collection and some very evocative writing. Not every story worked for me, but that’s the beauty of an anthology of short fiction – for every story you don’t really get into, there’s at least two or three you do.

This book contains stories of horror, alternate history, science fiction, fantasy and more. Some of the tales are very literary, some more in the pulp style. In some the speculative elements are very apparent, in others they’re very subtle. Some stories tie the year in question to modern times, or take a historical view from the distant past leading up to 1989. Others take a science fictional approach that ties back to or references the year. The interpretation of the theme  by the authors is as varied and colourful as the music and events of the time. This book is a truly inspired concept and the writers have all risen well to the challenge.

The net result is an excellent collection with something for everyone. And especially for those people who remember 1989. If you know someone old enough to recall the year, who is a fan of spec fic, this would make a fantastic gift. And get yourself a copy while you’re at it.

Eighty-Nine is officially launched on October 25th. You can pre-order here, in print or ebook format, and the 50th pre-order customer will score a bonus book pack. If you can’t wait, you can order from Amazon now.

Or, I can hook you up with a paperback copy. Leave a comment below telling me what your favourite song from 1989 is, and why. The one that I find most interesting will get a copy of Eighty-Nine. Yes, this is a completely arbitrary decision, so think of your favourite song from 1989 and a good story to go with it. It doesn’t have to be true – we all love a bit of fiction around here.


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8 thoughts on “Eighty-Nine: spec fic from Literary Mix Tapes – review

  1. Ah, 1989… I remember it well: Milli Vanilli, New Kids on the Block, and Rick Astley.

    In amongst the sappy boy bands and lip-synching, there was a single song that epitomises 1989 to me, the one song that dragged me on to the dancefloor at the interminable school discos that I somehow found myself attending.

    He’s the one they call Dr. Feelgood! He’s the one that makes ya feel alright!

    I was so enamoured with Motley Crue’s single that I begged my parents to buy it for me, and then put it on the top of my wish list for my 13th birthday. When that auspicious day finally arrived, I was handed a small, rectangular present. I could barely contain my excitement. I tore open the paper and froze.

    It was Cher’s ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’.

    “The man at the record store said this would be better for a 13 year old girl,” my Dad said, looking pleased at his own initiative.

    Yeah. Thanks, Dad.

  2. “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel. It was my favorite because I had absolutely nothing to do with that… uh, nevermind. It’s just catchy. 😉

  3. First up – thank you Alan for taking the time to read and write the review. So glad you enjoyed it. All of us at LMT and eP appreciate your continued support of everything we do.

    Obviously – I got to choose a song from 1989 to add to the playlist, but I didn’t actually choose my favourite song from that year. I pulled an obscurity which I really liked and thought would create interesting parametres for an unsuspecting author to play with (Rebecca Dobbie ended up with my song prompt”.

    Madonna’s “Express Yourself” is probably the most enduring for me. I wanted to grow up to wear that slinky green evening gown and have gorgrous, muscled men throw themselves at my feet… or if I’m really honest (yeah just not enough honesty yet!)… it was the allure of the Metropolis-styled set of the video clip. This was before I’d even heard of that movie. I think, as a fifteen year old girl I liked the sentiment of ‘not going for second best’.

    Not even close to being snort-out-loud perfect like Jo’s story, or Gany’s fess up. While Motley Crue don’t make the Eighty Nine play list for the anth… Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” did and Monica Marier wrote a stellar piece called “Now Voyager II” inspired by it.

    Looking forward to reading all the other comments here as they come in. There is something about the year (or is it just the ‘dirty’ acknowledgement of 80’s nostalgia) which inspires people to want to share.

  4. Being an author in said anthology shall disqualify me from winning.
    But, 1989 was the year I discovered music, in particular, the sounds of thrash and speed metal. I remember hearing Kick Start My Heart by the Crue and Aerosmith’s Love in an Elevator.
    \m/ >.< \m/ Still a metal head at heart.
    I absorbed the radio like a sponge and the love of music (across many genres) has not gone away.
    Adam B @revhapppiness

  5. 1989 – not long out of uni and working in schools. Heading to gigs in Sydney on weekends with a bunch of mates from Wollongong. DMs (nothing to do with heart to hearts or Twitter) Levi’s and Fred Perrys. And the music on the radio and tele was a funny mix of Post Punk New Wave Pop Dance Club Rap Aciiid Madchester.
    So to settle on a favourite song was always going to involve a heavy filtering. Names like The Pixies,Public Enemy, De La Soul, The Lightning Seeds, REM and The Go Betweens
    But the one song that stuck and is still in my Top 5 playlist of all time is “Fools Gold” by the Stone Roses. I can place that song in a multitude of life’s experiences during that time – road trips, parties, dates, gigs, pubs, radio, late night television on Rage… It even became a ring tone on my phone.
    An ubiquitous soundtrack of that era for me.

  6. There were a number of albums that stood out for me, including from the Fine Young Cannibals, 101 (a handful of whose songs remain my Depeche Mode favourites — for me, they’ve yet to out-do that album), The Stone Roses, Louder Than Love from some new group called Soundgarden (which I originally bought on cassette), The Real Thing (ditto), The Offspring (and again), 11 by The Smithereens, and the ever-revisited Mother’s Milk (can Flea’s bass riff on “Higher Ground” be outdone? I’d argue not), but if I were to pick one lone song from that year which kicked my ass (and still does), it would be “Head Like A Hole” by NIN. Nothing like that had ever been done before, and it was an interesting insight into what music could be and where it would be going. I can drop that CD into the player today and it will still blow away an awful lot of current music with talent and intensity in each song.

    Thanks for the post… I’d forgotten how much good music came out that year.

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