by William Sanders 

Norilana Books


580pp/$32.95/September 2008

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

You may not know of William Sanders, without you have read a book by the name of Journey to Fusang, or perhaps The Wild Blue and the Grey, or J, or The Ballad of Bill Badass and the Rose of Turkestan, but that ain't no matter. The matter at hand is the book East of the Sun and West of Fort Smith, in which several, nearly all, in fact, of Sanders's stories have been collected for your enjoyment, and perhaps even edification.  Within the pages of this book, which was written nearly in its entirety by Mr. Sanders (with the exception of the introduction, by Rick Bowes), you'll find such stories as the the Sidewise Award winning "Empire" to the vastly underrated ""Dry Bones," and twenty four other stories which will keep you occupied and entertained.

Sanders, who has also written as Will Sundown, is a Cherokee Indian, who frequently writes about American Indians, but in no way exclusively. The stories in East of the Sun and West of Fort Smith demonstrate the breadth of his writing.  For instance, although well-known for his alternate history and humorous writing, in "He Did the Flatline Boogie and He Boogied On Down the Line," Sanders demonstrates he is quite capable of a dark story of a drug addled future.  Has-been musician Jerry Duane delves into the demimonde of Necrodone to find a young girl he is smitten with.  What gives the story even more power is Jerry inability to explain what makes Jane Ann worth everything.

His humor is on display in "Acts," which tells the story of a talent agent who books acts across the galaxy and must deal with the variety of racial preferences and foibles each planet has.  Sanders demonstrates his deft hand at writing humor, which is all too rare in the world of science fiction and fantasy, and presents an interesting take on what happened behind the scenes at a major historical event. Those who have already read Journey to Fusang or The Wild Blue and the Grey will not be surprised at Sanders's use of humor in the story.

Those novels also demonstrate Sanders's competence with alternate histories.  A similar ability is demonstrated in several of the stories included in this volume, not just the previously mentioned award winning story, but also "Billy Mitchell's Over Act," "Sitka," "Not Fade Away," "Duce," and the widely reprinted "The Undiscovered." In "Billy Mitchell's Overt Act," Mitchell survives to see the start of World War II in Europe and is able to make his notions of the use of the air corps into reality when he is assigned to Pearl Harbor.  As in our world, Mitchell must buck authority to put his plan into action.

Sanders also demonstrates his ability to deal with current issues.  In "When This World Is All On Fire," Sanders postulates a future world in which environmental abuse results in the recurrence of the dustbowl and the epic migrations of the 1930s.  Suddenly, the worthless lands deeded to the American Indians become important to Caucasians again.

Sanders follows each of his stories with short discussions of the stories.  These can range from setting of the inspiration for "Jennifer, Just Before Midnight" to his response to winning the Sidewise Award for "Empire" to the critical review of "Amba."  These all too brief afterwords put a human face on the author and (perhaps) provide some insight into his state of mind. In any event, the afterwords only serve to buttress the stories Sanders has already told.

While it is too bad that Sanders has not included his complete works of short stories, what is even more lamentable, especially after reading East of the Sun and West of Fort Smith is that Sanders has claimed that he is no longer actively writing science fiction.  The stories collected in this volume are enjoyable and make the reader view the world in a different way.  Sanders is definitely an underrated genre author whose works should be more widely praised and read.

Elvis Bearpaw's Luck  The Scuttling, or, Down by the Sea with Marvin and Pamela
Going After Old Man Alabama Empire
The Undiscovered Tenbears and the Bruja
Words and Music Duce
Billy Mitchell's Overt Act Dry Bones
Ninekiller and the Neterw At Ten Wolf Lake
Dirty Little Cowards Sitka
Jennifer, Just Before Midnight Angel Kills
Creatures Not Fade Away
Smoke Acts
Looking for Rhonda Honda Amba
When This World Is All on Fire Going to See the Beast
He Did the Flatline Boogie and He Boogied On Down the Line The Contractors

Purchase this book from Amazon Books.

Return to

Thanks to
SF Site
for webspace.