I first encountered Steve Rasnic Tem in the little-remembered anthology Other Worlds 1 -- a fantasy offshoot of Roy Torgeson's original anthology series Chrysalis. (Chrysalis and Other Worlds never received the notice that anthologies like the Universe and New Dimensions books did, but they were a worthwhile and different set of books, featuring a noticeably different set of regular writers.) Over the years he (and also his late wife, Melanie Tem) slowly developed for me a reputation as reliably intriguing and original short story writers. Steve Rasnic Tem has published several novels (a couple in collaboration with Melanie), but he still seems primary a short fiction writer, and a very good one. Today is his birthday, and in his honor here's a look stories of his I've reviewed for Locus. (Two of them, "Invisible" and "A Letter From the Emperor" were reprinted in my Best of the Year books, and I recommend them very highly, especially "A Letter From the Emperor", an exceptional story that I think deserved a lot more notice than it got.)
Locus, April 2005
I found Steve Rasnic Tem's "Invisible" (Sci Fiction) quite painful (in a good way): the story of a couple who seem to be growing literally invisible as they become socially invisible. This is, evidently, that sort of fantasy that uses its fantastic element as straightforward metaphor for a "mundane" central theme -- and it does so very well, as we see the viewpoint character's co-workers snubbing him, his daughter failing to call, and his wife's evanescing.
Locus, December 2008
At Asimov’s for December, Melanie Tem and Steve Rasnic Tem offer “In Concert”, a moving story of an aging woman who has, all her life, telepathically sensed the thoughts of others – sometimes those close to her, sometimes people across the world. Now she lives alone, close to death, and she begins to sense the thoughts of an astronaut lost in space. She also learns something about her possibly suicidal great-grandson, and in the end, much is lost – in the natural way of things – but hope remains.
Locus, October 2009
Black Static’s version of “horror” probably fits my taste as well as any horror magazine. At the August/September issue I enjoyed Steve Rasnic Tem’s “Charles”, a deadpan tale of a mother telling her long dead son that it’s really not right for dead people to marry – the story is at first funny, but it closes on an effectively sad note.
Locus, January 2010
“A Letter from the Emperor”, by Steve Rasnic Tem, is the outstanding piece from the January Asimov’s. Jacob is a messenger for a Galactic Empire. His partner has just committed suicide as they come to an isolated planet, long out of contact with what seems an only tenuously in control Emperor. His guilt over his failure to understand his late partner combines with his concern for the aging governor of this planet, who is desperate for approval from his Emperor … and what results is a letter that perhaps says more about we readers and our nostalgia for things like Galactic Empires and noble adventures than anything else.
Locus, January 2011
Then Steve Rasnic Tem’s “Visitors” (Asimov's, January) tells of a future punishment, as an old couple are shown visiting their son, who is confined rather horribly in a sort of suspended animation. It seems a way of avoiding the death penalty without really avoiding it, and the implications are quite disturbing.
Beneath Ceaseless Skies for October 14 had some strong work, including a neat, funny, original wizard’s apprentice type story from Steve Rasnic Tem, “Dying on the Elephant Road”, about a lovelorn young man who gets himself killed trying to protect the woman he loves (who doesn’t know him), only to be restored (sort of) by a wizard;