Money, business, sports, love: All involve risk—and skill. The skilled authors in this volume masterfully exhibit both. Buckle in while a locomotive engineer uses magic in a race to avoid extinction, a game developer must outmaneuver an alien for Earth's fate, and a flip of the coin determines life and death. Crossing genre lines through science fiction, fantasy, mystery, historical, and mainstream, these adrenaline-pumping stories about taking risks offer nothing but reward.
Table of Contents
"Play the Man" by Dan C. Duval
"The F Factor" by Chrissy Wissler
"No Free Lunch" by Anthea Sharp
"Winning the Ocean Pearl" by T. D. Edge
"China Moll" by Cindie Geddes
"A Tale of Good Whiskey, Bad Coffee, and One Devious Woman" by Annie Reed
"Bucking the Tiger" by John Helfers & Kerrie Hughes
"The Messiah Business" by Robert T. Jeschonek
"Muggins Rules" by Russ Crossley
"Cost and Conscience" by Christy Fifield
"Side Baiting" by Phaedra Weldon
"Gambler's Fallacy" by Brigid Collins
"The Man Who Decided" by Dean Wesley Smith
"Rats" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
"Driving the Line" by Dan C. Duval
"Side Bet" by Lee Allred
A bundle with its roots this deep in high adventure wouldn't be complete without a volume of Fiction River, one of the great monthlies featuring top notch multi-genre fiction that resurrects the great pulps of the past with thoroughly modern sensibilities. This volume gives you Extreme Sci-Fi in four bite-sized hours d'oeuvres of excellence, and follows it up with a full platter of other great stories about extreme risks and the people who take them. – J. Daniel Sawyer
"[Fiction River] is one of the best and most exciting publications in the field today. Check out an issue and see why I say that."– Keith West, Adventures Fantastic
"… fans of the unconventional will be well satisfied."– Publishers Weekly on Fiction River: Pulse Pounders
"Fiction River: Fantastic Detectives is a great choice for anyone who loves it when genres are swirled together. It's nominally more heavily influenced by mystery conventions and tropes, but the science fiction and fantasy elements in it are almost as strong."– Long and Short Reviews on Fiction River: Fantastic Detectives
A Degree of Risk
Dean Welsey Smith
I have always been a risk taker. Not because I'm brave, or that I have some pathological need to brush against death, or anything silly like that. I'm just wired naturally as a person to take risks.
For example, I've started numbers of businesses, played professional sports, and been married three times. So I take risks with money, business, sports, and love.
I also played professional poker for a time, making my living for a number of years doing that. And I paid my way through college playing on blackjack teams. I know odds, I know risk analysis, and I know a bad risk when I see it, both in the real world and in card playing.
I am not a gambler, however. If the odds of winning are not in my favor, I do not play. You will never see me sitting at a slot machine or a roulette table. That is not taking a risk, that is simply entertainment.
In other words, I take calculated risks, and I control the risks I take as much as possible.
Many, many people, even some of my closest friends, are extremely risk-averse. Just the idea of not completely controlling an outcome makes then break into a sweat. And, of course, they often look at me with puzzlement as I try something new and risky.
When Kristine Kathryn Rusch (who also enjoys her share of risk) and I started the Fiction River anthology series, we were taking a huge risk. But it was a controlled risk.
We were both experienced editors, so we knew we could put together a quality anthology series. However, we didn't want each anthology to only be our voices, our tastes, so we took an added risk by inviting in other professional editors for different volumes.
Because our history included another anthology series called Pulphouse, we knew the risks of the project itself and the costs involved, and we knew how to contain those risks as much as possible.
The risk paid off. Now Fiction River is working toward its third year. Every volume is still in a print or electronic edition and available for purchase from any major bookseller. And in the fall of 2014, we had a very successful subscription drive to increase the number of readers who took every volume as they came out.
So after the first year of Fiction River was successful, we talked about anthology ideas for the second year. An anthology focused on people who take risks seemed to be a very natural choice. I was the natural choice to edit it as well because of my poker background.
The idea for this anthology wasn't even a risky one, because I knew I could find some high quality fiction in a number of genres on the topic of risk. Often writers who do not enjoy risk in the real world are brilliant at imagining characters who do.
In this wonderful volume I have gathered sixteen stories on various forms of risk. I did not want just a gambling anthology, and I did not want all stories to be in one genre. Fiction River is known for crossing genres in every issue, and this volume is no different. You'll find science fiction, fantasy, mystery, historical, and mainstream stories here about all sorts of different risks.
As I said above, I take risks with money, business, sports, and love. That pretty well describes the stories in this volume.
I sure enjoyed finding the stories and reading them and putting them together in this volume. I am very proud of this anthology and how it turned out, just as I am very proud of the Fiction River anthology series.
A nice thing about taking any risk (such as starting Fiction River), when it pays off the feeling is wonderful. Maybe that's why I like to take risks so often.
I hope you enjoy the read. Trust me, the stories are all wonderful, so there will be no risk involved.
—Dean Wesley Smith
Lincoln City, Oregon
August 1, 2014