Strange Horizons, 3 April 2006

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This week’s offering from Strange Horizons, “The Los Angeles Women’s Auxiliary Superhero League” by Elana Frink, seems to be a departure from the standard they have been setting lately.  Instead of an angsty piece with depth and pathos, we have bubblegum-flavored fun, a pastiche of the superhero genre that the author has attempted to fashion along the lines of Mystery Men.  Perhaps it is a good thing. Strange Horizons has broken up a large block of the intensely serious with the blatantly ludicrous; while there have been several good pieces over the last couple of months the magazine was pigeonholing itself as a market for SF Erotica/Romance.  SH has a more general focus and is once again demonstrating this.

The above-named League is a dynamic trio of ladies with, well, kinda crappy superpowers.  One can bring down rain when she cries, the other has the standard invisibility, and the third has “the power of niceness.”  While in terms of comedic value these skills could have been rethought, perhaps this was intended to bring subtlety to Frink’s pastiche where the Mystery Men comics and movie are simply over the top.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t quite work.

Camille works for a publicity agency when she discovers she has the power of invisibility; through a painfully-Dickensian coincidence it turns out her two best friends have also gained semi-useful powers.  Without any further ado, they band together to fight a conveniently placed kind-of-villain.  No, not a super-villain.  While this approach is refreshing (“In the real world, superheroes have lame powers like niceness and villains are trying to sabotage public transit and there’s nothing you can do about it!"), it isn’t emphasized enough.

This isn’t the worst story out at the moment, but this piece would be better served as a humorous interlude in a larger collection.  Though it does have the feel of the opening of a YA novel, “League” just doesn’t have the punching power to be a stand-alone story.