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`WASHED’ ANTHOLOGY SPINS WITH AMAZING FANTASY TALES

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From the day Orson Pratt brought out his humor magazine "Keep-a-pitchin-in" to Mickey Mouse directing the Tabernacle Choir at this year's Freedom Festival, Mormon culture has shown a penchant for popular culture.

In the arts, that means a fascination with Broadway musicals and movies. And contrary to what academics and Mormon language mavens say, in the world of books it means the most influential and well-wrought writing is coming from the genres: Westerns, children's books, romances, mysteries, and now, science fiction.In "Washed by a Wave of Wind" editor M. Shayne Bell tugs together futuristic and fantasy stories from the LDS Interior West (the "corridor" of the title). And unlike LDS story anthologies that offer a dose of entertainment amid the messages, this one offers a few messages tucked in among the entertainment. The book has the feel of a "beach book," a "good read" for a red-eye flight. But each and every story trades on Mark Twain's famous dictum, "Teach the reader, just don't let him know he's being taught."

The titles of the stories themselves display the loopy imagination that jazz artists use when naming compositions: "The Shining Dream Road Out" (by M. Shayne Bell), "Thunderbird's Egg" (Diann Thornley), "Snooze" (David Doering) and "Pageant Wagon" (Orson Scott Card).

Most readers will be able to quickly pick out the old hands by the ease and naturalness of their styles. But some of the real pyrotechnics come from the young and ambitious, as in this example from newcomer M.V. Worthen and his story "You Can't Go Back," a piece about empire building in virtual reality:

A day later Gus took me to the same area in Orem and showed me a white colonial with exactly the porch and balcony I'd described. We used the WorldBuilder program to flesh it out and furnish it. I put in early American furniture and downloaded all kinds of books from the library. They all went into hardback covers. . . .

When a poker player has a good hand, he says "Read 'em and weep."

With these amazing stories it becomes, "Read 'em and leap."