SCI FICTION, June 1, 2005

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"The Being of It All" by Carol Emshwiller

ImageCarol Emshwiller brings us this week’s SCI FICTION Original, “The Being of It All.” A woman and her dog are perplexed by the booming voice on high. What should they do?

Marilyn and Booboo are hiking in the mountains when the voice speaks. “Come.” “Do, be, proclaim. Become more than just your father’s son.” The voice is confusing to Marilyn and scares Booboo. Yet, Marilyn decides to try to heed the voice’s admonishments. She sits with Booboo to “be” for a while.

They return to the mountain, encountering a man who climbs the trail in front of them.  And the voice proclaims again. Is it meant for them or the man? But it’s Booboo and Marilyn who change, who do, with Booboo leading the way. Eventually, they attack the man, driving him from the forest.

I have to admit, I found this story somewhat bewildering.  I can see how it could be an examination of gender identities, but I don’t think it is. It is densely written and requires several readings for comprehension.  I’m inclined to think it more an examination of the need for people to give way to their more natural instincts from time to time.

In any event, Emshwiller’s story is not for the fan of more casual science fiction. She is known for her experimental writing, and her fans will certainly want to read “The Being of It All.” Fans of more experimental fiction will also want to take a turn at it, but do set aside some time to read the story more than once.