"On a Scale of One to Three" by Douglas Lain
"The Father Who Lived in the Hiss" by Joe Murphy
"August 12, 2017" by Karen A. Romanko
"The Orange Couch" by Ed Lynskey
"Indifference" by Robert Wexler
"Of Moon Dust and Starlight" by Beth Bernobich
Not being a member of the RV set, I approached Full Unit Hookup (a/k/a FUHU) with the expectation that the title referred to android sexuality or perhaps the more obscure type of expensive German brothels. Turns out the title is a reference to RV parks that provide water, power, sewage, and for all I know high-speed Internet. Editor Mark Rudolph and Conical Hats Press, not being content with an eclectic title, go on to provide an array of eclectic fiction (including one reprint) and poetry, with a couple of essays thrown in for good measure. Per Tangent Online policy, I did not review the poetry or the non-fiction. I did want to mention Rudolph's non-fiction piece "Big Nose Pride Day: A Surreal Essay", which falls into that elusive category of creative non-fiction. I enjoyed it, read the allegory in my own terms, then eventually woke up to Rudolph's intended point. The fiction, eclectic as it is, varies widely from Douglas Lain's highly politicized retro New Wave piece to Joe Murphy's audiomania to Beth Bernobich's oblique prose poetry. Check it out. Meanwhile, I am curious to see FUHU #2.
As it happens, I recently met Douglas Lain in person, in large part as a result of a review I wrote of one of his stories in Strange Horizons a while back. I referred to his story in SH as "a bit twee" — a British slang term meaning overly cute or self-consciously precious. "On a Scale of One to Three" is a lot of things, but it sure ain't twee. (This is the one reprint in FUHU, originally appearing in PIF magazine.) Stylistically, it drives straight out of the Pamela Zoline era of New Wave fiction, with a strong dose of nuclear paranoia and Reagan-era "kill a Commie for mommy" reverse-nostalgia. Lain writes straight from the conscience, with a strong dose of style and a quirky world view.
Speaking of previous Tangent Online reviews, last fall I accused Joe Murphy of writing bug porn with his "Ovigonopods of Love." Murphy's FUHU story, "The Father Who Lived in the Hiss," is, if not audioporn, at the very least audiomania, filtered through the off-kilter, reality-distorted paranoia also characteristic of the New Wave. Where the Lain story owes a debt to Zoline, Murphy owes a debt to Philip K. Dick. Spider, the father, battles with his wife and the world for the virtues of analog recording over the soulless purity of digital. He loses the battle, but ultimately, wins the war.
There's been an outbreak of baseball in genre just lately. "August 12, 2017" is Karen A. Romanko's contribution, the story of the perfect moment in the life of the first female player in major league baseball. This piece is nicely done, combining convincing baseball detail — convincing to me, at least, as a non-fan — and convincing woman detail — convincing to me, at least, as a non-woman — to tell another story of nostalgia, memory and the transcendence of life's fleeting perfections.
Ed Lynskey's "The Orange Couch" is nicely done, but slighter than the other material in FUHU. In part, this is a function of its length as flash-fiction, but this really is a one-note story. Lynskey deftly generates a sense of irritated desperation, then leaves us, like the eponymous orange couch, standing in the rain.
"Indifference" by Robert Wexler is yet another attack of the New Wave. The magical mechanisms of the universe are unexplained even as they affect, and dominate, Brown's life. Some of the magic is in the small tragedies of a failed marriage and a difficult work life, some of it in the disembodied head that takes up residence in Brown's apartment, mute editorialist to the protagonist's slow-motion struggles. Wexler interleaves odd historical and narrative vignettes, counterpointing and limning the stages of Brown's dissolution into indifference and eventual restoration to engagement.
The last story in the volume is a difficult read, a prose poem by Beth Bernobich called "Of Moon Dust and Starlight." High lyrical diction and a loose anchoring in the continuum between fantasy and SF — Is the story allegory? Literal narrative? Abstruse fantasy? — encapsulate the Bernobich story in its own space within FUHU. Editor Mark Rudolph gave this story pride-of-place at the end of the volume, anchoring this issue with Bernobich's soaring lyricism, but this story sounds a different note than the rest.
Jay Lake lives in Portland, Oregon with his family and their books. So far in 2002, his fiction will appear in 3SF, Beyond the Last Star, Clean Sheets, Dark Terrors 6, Ideomancer, Talebones, The Third Alternative, and Strange Horizons, and he is a Writers of the Future Finalist and winner of the 2001 Best of Soft SF Contest. Jay can be reached at email@example.com.