Low Port, edited by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (Meisha Merlin, 2003)

Inspired by, though not based upon, the Low Port setting from Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s popular Liadan series, Low Port is a collection of stories aimed at giving characters who normally remain in the background a turn to shine. We all know these characters: the bums, grifters, con men, barmaids, merchants, drifters, the people who aren’t necessarily heroes or villains, the ones who get by while the more dramatic people do their thing. And these aren’t the humble farmers or assistant pig-keepers or orphans destined for great things, either. They’re the white noise in the background, the crowd scenes, the spear-carriers.
Hence, in Low Port, you’ll find a wide variety of characters. The main character of John Teehan’s “Digger Don’t Take No Requests” is a musician and con man who’s currently holding the record for longest transient inhabitant of the Moon, having spent nearly five years trading on unexpired visa chits to stay where he belongs. But time’s got to run out for everyone, and sooner or later, Joe’s going to be sent back to Earth, unless he can wrangle an unusual solution. After all, there’ll always be a need for dishwashers and janitors in space.
The winner of Most Unusual Title is Edward McKeown’s “Lair of the Lesbian Love Goddess,” a down-and-dirty cop story of a decidedly unusual beat. Rest assured, it’s not what you think, which may just be a good thing. Nathan Archer’s “Contraband” introduces Jeffers, a customs officer willing to bend the rules to line his own pocket. However, when he stumbles across a unique cargo, he learns that he’s not entirely devoid of scruples. But what’s a guy to do when everything looks okay on paper? Get creative, that’s what.
In “Spinacre’s War,” by Lee Martindale, a disgraced military commander is placed in charge of an obscure, unremarkable territory on the edge of nowhere. When he decides to abuse his power and “lose” the people he’s been assigned to care for, he sets a chain of events in motion that will ultimately force a reckoning between town and military base. But really, what chance does a ragtag band of whores and cripples stand against finely-trained military men? In “Bottom of the Food Chain,” by Jody Lynn Nye, we’re introduced to Hap, one of the many forgotten, disenfranchised residents of the Belowstairs section of Delta Station. Just another have-not, in a community that couldn’t even tell you what they don’t have, Hap has some big dreams. Then a stroke of luck delivers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity into his lap. Granted an effective blank check, with the sky the limit, what will he reach for?
In “The Times She Went Away” by Paul E. Martens, the legendary Annie Jones changes a man’s life everytime she walks into it… and out again. A pirate, smuggler, hero, villain, thief, scoundrel, mercenary, and much more, Annie dominates the scene wherever she goes. But for Peter, a mild-mannered poet, she’s an inspiration, and the touchstone by which he’s measured his life. For every hero that strides the stars, there’s a poet or lover or dreamer in every port, and here, we see what effect the hero has on those whose lives they intrude upon.
These are just a few of the twenty stories which make up Low Port. Spanning science fiction and fantasy, including authors such as Sharon Lee, Lawrence Schoen, Ru Emerson, and eluki bes shahar, this is a highly imaginative, rather eclectic collection, with a little something for everyone. Low Port is great fun, and it sheds light on settings and characters rarely given the attention. Lee and Miller clearly have a knack for picking interesting and entertaining stories.

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