Per the “Shared Brilliance” theory, “Words have multiple meanings”: Any phrase can trigger “a chain reaction of memory that could very well sully real understanding.” Thus, in addition to banning oral and written communication, the researchers in Jeffrey Ford’s “The Yellow Chamber,” from the new anthology Trampoline, wear dark goggles and thick mittens to insulate their scientific objectivity from outside influence. No unblinkered, gloveless reader can resist the stream of associations unleashed by Ford’s story and the rest of Trampoline: influences as disparate as science fiction, magic realism, pulp, and Twilight Zone morality plays.
In fact, little seems to connect the 20-odd stories compiled by Kelly Link (Stranger Things Happen), except freewheeling imagination and a flair for fantasy. Uncanny parallels emerge. Samantha Hunt’s “Igor and Igor and Igor and Igor” echoes a sultan’s 300 wives in another Hunt contribution, “For Love”—which in turn recalls the 18 Tinas in a story by the Voice‘s Ed Park (its title exceeds our space constraints). Death is everywhere, from Dave Shaw’s grimly funny “King of Spain” and Christopher Barzak’s morbid teens (“Dead Boy Found”) to Glen Hirshberg’s bittersweet “Shipwreck Beach.” The Devil is a filthy hitchhiker in Richard Butner’s “Dead City Stomp”; Olympian deities mess things up in Carol Emshwiller’s “Gods and Three Wishes”; and Vandana Singh’s radiant protagonist is a planet unto herself. I’m tempted to say Trampoline had me jumping for joy, but Shared Brilliance would dismiss such glibness as undue influence.