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The Black Mirror and Other Stories: An Anthology of Science Fiction from Germany and Austria    edited by Franz Rottensteiner order for
Black Mirror and Other Stories
by Franz Rottensteiner
Order:  USA  Can
Wesleyan University Press, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Alex Telander

In this fascinating new collection from Wesleyan University Press, readers get to enjoy a great anthology of original science fiction from Germany and Austria spanning over a century of work. Editor Franz Rottensteiner offers a lengthy introduction spanning the entire history of science fiction in Germany and Austria, going into detail on the important authors starting back in the eighteenth century and continuing up to the present. Rottensteiner also does a great job of discussing German and Austrian writers who were eventually published in American magazines and anthologies and became popular in the United States.

The anthology is divided into sections by era, the first five stories being published in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. In this early period, science fiction stories were a lot more ponderous and philosophical, critiquing the way of life and its meaning and worth. In the next era, set between the World Wars, Hans Dominik in A Free Flight in 2222 has the world not developing space travel and making it to the moon until the early twenty-first century; but after this hurdle is reached, we travel on to each of the planets by the end of the century. It is an interesting outlook from 1934 on a space race that in reality began with the moon and essentially stopped there.

In the title story, The Black Mirror by Erik Simon in 1983, the world has made first contact with an alien race, but because of the distance, ships from Earth and ships from their planet take years to cross the gap. And now the aliens arrive with a new invention - a giant silver mirror of immense beauty on one side, that cannot be broken or shattered. On the other side is a black mirror that is in fact nothingness. It is a black hole in which an unbelievable darkness can be seen, and whatever is thrown into it disappears forever. At first humanity is delighted at this amazing invention, and then begins to consider every possible item that can be tossed into it, without regard for consequences. 'Bit by bit, they'll throw the whole universe,' one alien says to the other, uncertain as to whether or not humanity has doomed itself.

In more recent stories, there are tales debating the merits of technology and the Internet and whether in the long run it will benefit or hinder humanity. What is perhaps most interesting in this collection is that science fiction stories from Germany and Austria are really no different from those written by American authors. Ultimately, humans have always and always will have a great fascination for the future and what it may entail, no matter what country or culture they are from. The Black Mirror is a great science fiction collection. It opens a window into a world of foreign literature unknown to many English speakers, and will hopefully lead them to read more of these European works.

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