SCI FICTION, November 24, 2004

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"Super 8" by Terry Bisson

ImageTerry Bisson's novelette, "Super 8," starts off as a disjointed dream narrative, captured with the characteristically jerky, home movie quality of a Super 8MM camera as it hopscotches from face to face.  In present tense pastiche, the players are introduced: Mason and John, rivals and friends; Si, shy leader and hub; and Wendi, mother-figure and lover (a homage to J.M. Barrie's storytelling, nurturing Wendy of Peter Pan). These four friends are young and idealistic, flower children of the 60's come together from different backgrounds, bound by their shared vision and hopes for the future.  Soon, another joins their intimate circle, Will the draft dodger, and they are five.

"Super 8" leaps from character to character, sometime lingering with Wendi, other times with Mason, John, Si, or Will.  The dream imagery is punctuated by moments of courted insomnia and waking, thirty-five years later.  In waking, the dreamers are no longer united, flung across the country living their separate lives in the modern world. Yet all of them are haunted by identical dreams of their past, as though they watch a movie unreeling.

With deft skill, Bisson's choice of rendering the 60's dream happenings in present tense gives a sense of immediacy and realness which the waking segments lack, an obviously purposeful effect.  Furthermore, the frequent switches of point of view instead of jarring the reader, serve to unify the five personalities and consciousnesses.  The mystery of why they are being drawn together by their dreams crescendoes gracefully, swinging between nostalgia and wistful yearning to a faintly sinister, even spooky purpose.

"Super 8" is a beautiful and remarkably crafted story about dreams–both the REM kind and the starry-eyed kind–having them, finding them, and living them.