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Risen From The Flames

Phoenix in the Ashes

By Joan D. Vinge 

15 Feb, 2022

Big Hair, Big Guns!


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1985’s Phoenix in the Ashes is a collection of Joan D. Vinge short works. It follows two other collections, Fireship and Eyes of Amber. Phoenix in the Ashes is the third and latest such collection.

The original Bluejay edition featured interior art by Susan Collins that the Tor and Orbit editions lack. 

While I am a great Vinge fan, this collection suffers a bit due to overlap. I read Mother and Child in the recently reviewed Orbit 16, Phoenix in the Ashes in somewhat less recently reviewed Fireship, and Psiren in the omnibus Psion. Given that Vinge has only published the three collections of which I am aware, it’s a shame that Fireship and Phoenix in the Ashes overlap, particularly as only a decade separates them. On the plus side, Psiren was pretty thoroughly out of print when Tor included it in its 2007 omnibus. It’s not as if readers would find it easy to track down either this collection or New Voices 4: The John W. Campbell Award Nominees; both collections went out of print rather quickly. 

Still, Phoenix in the Ashes offers something neither Orbit 16 nor Fireshipdid: extensive afterwords from the author commenting on the text. People curious about the writing process may well find this aspect intriguing.

Phoenix in the Ashes is out of print. 

Now for the mini-reviews. 

Phoenix in the Ashes • (1978) • novelette

Oil-poor, resource-hungry South American nations covet North American resources (resources that nuclear war has left the North Americans in no position to exploit themselves). A would-be prospector venturing into the Los Angeles Basin finds something wonderful … if not the treasure for which he was looking.

I would compare Mother and Child (also in this collection) to Anderson’s No Truce with Kings. Phoenix, the tale of an amnesiac falling for a local, reminds me of a different Anderson: 1957’s Memory.

Afterword — Phoenix in the Ashes • (1985) • essay 

A discussion of the creative process behind this story. 

Voices from the Dust” • (1980) • short story 

Two archeologists become pawns of an enigmatic alien relic on Mars. 

Afterword — Voices from the Dust • (1985) • essay 

A discussion of the creative process behind this story.

The Storm King • (1980) • novelette 

A deposed prince forces a dragon to bargain with him, energetically ignoring every warning he has been given. Only once it is too late to repent does he understand the earlier warnings.

Vinge provides a happy ending which I think the story would have been stronger without. 

Afterword — The Storm King • (1985) • essay 

A discussion of the creative process behind this story.

The Peddler’s Apprentice • (1975) • novelette Joan D. Vinge and Vernor Vinge

The peddler, possessed of inexplicable knowledge, must have come from Earth’s lost interstellar colonies. Or so the World Government, determined to keep Earth trapped in content stasis, convinces itself. This misunderstanding costs the World Government dearly. 

The peddler is convinced cycles of civilization are beneficial. He also profits from them personally. It’s all a bit reminiscent of Monte Cook’s Numenera Roleplaying Game.

Afterword — The Peddler’s Apprentice • (1985) • essay 

A discussion of the creative process behind this story.

Psiren • [Cat] • (1981) • novella 

Cat, who seems to have lost his telepathic powers, does his best to protect a Hydran telepath from ruthless exploitation. 

This is a rather Andre Norton-ish tale of exploited aliens and human-alien hybrids in a universe that does not bend towards justice. 

Afterword — Psiren • (1985) • essay 

A discussion of the creative process behind this story.

Mother and Child • (1975) • novella 

I just reviewed this in Orbit 16!It’s still about a kidnapped pagan priestess who manages, without meaning to do so, to affect a dispute between her people’s secret alien masters.

Afterword — Mother and Child • (1985) • essay 

A discussion of the creative process behind this story.