SCI FICTION, November 30 2005

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"The Man Who Would Be Kong" by Andrew Fox
This week’s SCI FICTION offering, "The Man Who Would Be Kong" by Andrew Fox, is another one of those tales where the fantastic is only implied rather than obvious. "The Gorilla Man" Max Strauss is an aging actor who earns a living by portraying gorillas in B-movies. However, he maintains that he is the man who played King Kong in the original 1933 classic. He has been telling this story for so long that he comes to believe in it, and none of his friends have the heart to tell him that the original King Kong was an 18-inch model.

We all have heartstrings that can be tugged, and Mr. Fox does it with subtle skill. The old man Max is a deeply sympathetic figure—partly, because he is so sincere and childlike, partly because he is old and alone, but mostly because he offers us a glimpse of our own illusions, little private lies more precious than the truth could ever be. The theme of shattered illusions having grave consequences was explored in literature as well as psychology, and this story builds on the established canon, adding a surprising twist. I won’t give away the ending, but it increased the impact of the story, transforming Max from a pitiful, although sympathetic, old man into a magical entity. His one encounter with the creator of King Kong, Willis O’Brien, gives the story a wonderful poignancy and bitter sweetness that stays with the reader for a long while.