Farrago’s Wainscot #16, October 2015

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Farrago’s Wainscot #16, October 2015

“Rudolph The Red Nosed Squirrel or Miracle on 82nd Street: Fiction/Quotation/Exposition”

by Marleen S. Barr
“Winter into Summer” by Philip Schweitzer
“The Thirteen Tuesdays of Saint Anthony” by Julie C. Day
“The Warehouse of Dead Daughters” by Nick Mamatas

Reviewed by Robert L Turner III

In order to properly understand “Rudolph The Red Nosed Squirrel or Miracle on 82nd Street: Fiction/Quotation/Exposition,” a little background is in order. I hold a PhD in literature and am conversant with contemporary literary theory. I am also a long term (30+ years) SF fan. I am the perfect target for this story.

I hated it.

Marleen S. Barr’s narrative is an attempt to meld humor, Santa Claus and literary theory. Instead it is trite, boring and self-referential. The story is peppered with various quotations shoehorned into the thin plot about Samuel Delany’s character, Bron Helstom, in female form, arriving in New York City. Only the plucky Mary Sue, eh Sondra Lear—“feminist science fiction scholar” can save the day. I hate to write a scathing review, and I would love a smart Derrida inspired story, but this reads like fan fiction thrown together at a late night gab session during an academic conference.

In contrast to the first story, “Winter into Summer,” the publication by Philip Schweitzer is intriguing. The story concerns missing children, a child who may be a changeling and the narrator’s slowly dying wife. Schweitzer’s language and imagery is well suited to the nature of the story and is evocative and clean. Although the conclusion is a little weak, this is a good start for a new writer.

Julie C. Day creates an intriguing tale in “The Thirteen Tuesdays of Saint Anthony.” Written in the form of a grant application, the story details the sufferings of the mythical city of Farsdale Massachusetts. The grant writer asserts the need for a large scale mural/performance art project to gain the attention of St. Anthony, patron saint of the lost and stolen. The progress of the proposal takes the reader deeper into the needs of the town and the grant writer herself. Her conclusion is both tragic and macabre. I found the format to be innovative and to function well as a framework for the tale. Since the story is mediated though the application, the reader is left to determine truth and fantasy.

The final piece of this issue’s offering is “The Warehouse of Dead Daughters” by Nick Mamatas. In it a self-labeled MILF deals with her daughter’s lust for fame and desire to use sex as a route to celebrity a la Kardashian. The ostensible fantastic element stems from an empty studio lot building that the daughter, Lily, describes as storage for the dead daughters in movies. While the story raises issues related to questions of vanity, sexual exploitation, gender stereotypes and youth obsessed Hollywood, what it lacks is any actual Science Fiction or Fantasy. Everything in the text could be contemporary, unless you count Google glasses. The story isn’t bad, but don’t expect to find anything SF/F related in it.

Robert Turner is a professor and long term SF reader.