Strange Horizons, 8 August 2005

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"The Fall of Changes" by Becca De La Rosa

In these stories, there is always a club you can’t join, a door you can’t open, a place you can’t enter because you are not one of the special people, because you are too ordinary, too mundane, insufficiently cool. Sometimes the elect are elves, who are always very cool, sometimes they are vampires or the cybernetically enhanced—the various rock stars and supermodels of the fantastic. They always seem to have special cool names like Triste de la Monde, the gatekeeper in the Harlequin mask. “If he does not approve of you, you will never find your way to Stone Circle no matter how hard you look.”

This of course is marketing, for as author Becca De La Rosa knows, nothing draws people so well as the promise of exclusivity, and the streets and shops of Stone Circle are full of tourists, come to be parted from their money in exchange for dubious charms and magics. But even among the special people, there must always be some more special than the rest, and in Stone Circle this is Lantern—or so Lantern informs us.

Lantern sells days. It seems that she can return people to a day in their past, allow them to relive it, perhaps to live it differently. Naturally, her customers are the special ones among the tourists, for the visitors to Stone Circle “come in two kinds: the ones with huge eyes, either terrified or delighted and trying to take in everything, or the ones who do not look anywhere at all but cut through crowds with their heads held high, intent on their purpose and very self-assured.” On the night of this story, during the carnival known as “The Fall of Changes,” even the Devil comes to seek Lantern’s services, and of course there is no one more cool than the Devil.

De La Rosa has a Neat Story Idea here. The untold stories of Lantern’s customers are fraught with intriguing possibilities. And the reader can not help but wonder just what sort of Bad Thing has gone so wrong in the outside world that only the Devil can stop it, or why the Devil would bother to do this. Isn’t the Devil behind the Bad Things?

Alas, we are left frustrated by Lantern, who seems more concerned with telling us how special she is and warning us not to waste her time by wondering how the story ends. It is no wonder that the Devil comes across as the only likable, unpretentious character in this piece.