27 September 2007

Subterranean magazine #7 – stories I liked and why

Though I'll say again that I'm not a reviewer, I do want to jot down a few thoughts about some stories I liked in the new Subterranean magazine #7, edited by Ellen Datlow and published by Subterranean Press.

The mother-daughter relationship was very touching in Lisa Tuttle's Old Mr. Boudreaux, and so real. And the importance of place was done with style and the sensitivity of that curiously titled person, the "expatriot". Age also, was something that I thought Lisa Tuttle wrote about with great trueness. The end was a surprise. A lovely surprise. I had only just read Tuttle's magnificently creepy short story, The Mezzotint, in Gathering the Bones (eds. Jack Dann, Ramsey Campbell, and Dennis Etchison) and am looking forward to reading more by her, as these were two very different stories indeed.

I liked Terry Bisson's Pirates of the Somali Coast! I don't know the fine points of how kids write to each other in emails (though I thought the spelling might be too good to be true), the only kids having emailed me I've had to say 'no' to, unless they could stop sending me attachments and they couldn't – but I do know that it isn't just kids who are getting their reality and fiction messed up; and who think that no matter what they do, no consequences for them will arise. Like 4-year-no-interest purchases or beating up on others who aren't expected to be able to hit back. The counselling was, I thought, the perfect touch, which leads me to recommend this superb piece by Andy Coughlin in a recent New Scientist:
Counselling can add to post-disaster trauma

Lucius Shepard's Vacancy reminded me in terms of tone and character, of some James M Cain (not The Postman Always Rings Twice, a story I've always thought weak) though I think Vacancy is better than anything Cain wrote (though that might be unfair to Cain whose stories suffer from emotionality and themes that didn't age well). Shepard's story is a splendid character portrait and has great annoyance power in that, once started, though I had other things to get to, I couldn't put it down till I had finished.

I've never read an M. Rickert story I didn't like. Holiday was another perfect gem, and I was surprised that I liked it because, like a cow who won't eat an orange that another cow has picked up and dropped, I generally don't like stories based on people the headlines have covered with slather.

My favourite story in this issue is Jeffrey Ford's Under the Bottom of the Lake. I like its circularity, but even more so, I loved the playful way he wrote it. There are certain places it just sings. Beautiful characters, too, made all the more real by the unexpected humour. His people who aren't yet adult have the integrity and dignity of being individuals in all the poignant, funny, idiosyncratic oddness that is a person and not a character.

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