Books: Lana Polansky Presents “Ghosts in the Machine: A Short Story Anthology”

A bug is worth a thousand words, or, if you’re Lana Polansky, a collection of 13 short stories.

Polansky, a video game critic and essayist, presents Ghosts in the Machine: A Short Story Anthology, co-edited by Brendan Keogh (author of Killing is Harmless), featuring stories by several critics, journalists, and artists.

Polansky herself contributes, as well as Ashton Raze, Denis Farr, Alan Williamson, Shelley “Big Shell” Du, Matt Riche, Rollin Bishop, Ian Miles Cheong, Andrew Vanden Bossche, Ryan Morning, Dylan Sabin, Alois Wittwer and Maddy Myers.

In the preview of Ghosts, available here, Polansky cites her time as a video game tester as inspiration for the book:

I found endless amusement and stimulation in all the myriad ways a game world could break down, not work, or be incomplete. In many cases, I found myself wondering if I wouldn’t find the game more interesting if the bugs were left in.

According to Polansky, certain games, like GZ Storm’s Vidiot Game, turn bugs into “stewards of theme and symbolism that make these games more relevant to the people playing them.”

To this end, each short story focuses on a specific “problem,” a bug which distorts either the game’s logic or the player’s immersion into the game’s world. Opting for fiction as the exploratory lens, Polansky and company investigate through narrative, “the formal and conceptual pitfalls of one form through the lens of another.”

We believe these stories demonstrate why the things that can go wrong in videogames can also be treated as significant and humanizing in their own right, and we’re proud to share them with you.

Ghosts in the Machine: A Short Story Anthology is out now, in digital and print. What the hell are you waiting for? Buy it already!