Saint Sava (saint_sava) wrote,
Saint Sava

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Literary edge case

  • While wandering through Half Price Books last week, I saw on the shelves this title: What did Miss Darrington see?: an anthology of feminist supernatural fiction. While it seems to present itself as the nichiest anthology ever, there were actually a couple of stories I recognized, including one about a Gypsy woman who goes mano-a-mano with Old Scratch, and, as Gypsy women, fiddlers, and folk singers are wont to do, wins. I can't fault the book too strongly until I've read it at least once, but calling literature written around strong female protagonists "feminist" doesn't seem fair to strong females. The works of Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. Leguin, C. J. Cherryh, Hayao Miyazaki, Masamune Shirow, and Robert Heinlein, just to name a few on both sides of the gender fence, are largely characterized by strong, often dominant, female figures, but I wouldn't even think about calling their stories feminist. Perhaps it's the absence of a particular agenda driving the actions of the female characters, or perhaps it's that they're not imbued power beyond the measure of their strength.
  • Scrupulously nonviolent libertarian economic sci-fi. But wait, it's actually damn good. See, this one all started when a college roommate B., who worked as a manager at a Domino's Pizza, accepted an armload of used paperback books in exchange for delivering some cheesy-bread one night. He brought one title back to the apartment: F. Paul Wilson's An enemy of the state. He left it in the bathroom, where I found it. It starts as typical pulp science fiction: an outworld imperium had become too overarching and heavy-handed, and a small group of revolutionaries were planning to violently overthrow it, but along comes this enigmatic figure, Peter LaNague, who promises to help bring it down, but insists on bringing about the imperium's demise bloodlessly using libertarian economic subversion. One would think that this particular oeuvre smacks of Battlefield Earth-like shenanigans, but it doesn't seem to be so: Wilson is a medical doctor by training and almost all of his previous works were strictly clinical horror novels devoid of any detectable ideology. You don't have to be a libertarian to love a book like this. Oh, yeah, I got halfway through the book in a single read before B. started banging on the bathroom door wondering what I was doing in there. When it was safe to go back in, I found he had taken the book with him and in the subsequent days managed to lose it. It's a sufficiently obscure book that it took me years to find it again and finally find out how LaNague's plans played out. My only beef with the book is the cover art: on one release, LaNague is portrayed as a huge, hulking figure holding a massive gun and has three arrows embedded in his upper leg, completely antithetical to everything about his portrayal inside the book. On another, he looks like Zeppo Marx.
  • Sometime in my adolescent wanderings I found an entire book devoted to Linotype sci-fi. Something like fifteen short stories with unreasonable narrative emphasis on defective Linotype machines. One of the more memorable stories involves life going wrong in strangely connected ways: the protagonist determines through interpolation that the Author of Creation must be writing reality on defective Linotype that is incorrectly processing words with the letter "e" in them at predictable intervals. He then endeavors to find a city named Haveen (easier said than done, I later determined -- there's no city named Haveen in the United States, at least) and steps into the city limits just as the Linotype misdrops the slug of text, and, wham, he's in Heaven, and tells G-d about His malfunctioning Linotype. This little anthology is apparently sufficiently obscure that I can't even find it with the help of Google. It's not Frederic Brown, who also wrote a story about a sapient Linotype, because his fiction is actually worthwhile.
  • Henry Stephen Frickin' Keeler. Nuff said.

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