The latest reviews and mentions of Tachyon titles and authors from around the web.
Patricia A. McKillip (photo: Stephen Gold/Wikimedia Commons), Susan Palwick, and Peter S. Beagle (Rina Weisman)
Now, the rest of the stories, they were excellent. They were what I EXPECT from McKillip. My favorite was about an artist who draws the Gorgon’s mouth and it becomes his muse, until it convinces him to fall in love with a real life girl who then becomes his true muse. Not being an artsy guy myself, most of the time I poo-poo stories dealing with art. However, this story, appropriately entitled The Gorgon in the Cupboard, drew me in and made the artist character sympathetic enough that even I was able to like him. The counter-story about the woman who becomes his muse, is poignantly sad and heartwrenching and provides a sad canvas upon which a happy story is drawn.
Thanks for the story, Susan! I loved the central ideas, as well as a lot of the bits and pieces of the story, such as the concept of the hospital as an organism; and I appreciated the treatments of various characters. One of the cool facets here is the positive and spiritual portrayal of Christian practice. Do you feel like writing stories with a Christian perspective poses specific or unique challenges in terms of the market and/or the way the piece might be received?
Yes, definitely. A lot of people have had terrible experiences with organized religion and especially with Christianity, which since the fourth century has been much too cozy with empire. I describe myself as a “Proud Member of the Christian Left,” but I can’t blame anyone for being unaware that there even is such a thing, or deeply suspicious of the entire project. At the same time, though, spiritual care really is essential in healthcare settings. I’ve spent ten years as a spiritual-care volunteer in an ER, which is obviously where a lot of the story came from. I can attest to how much it means to patients, Christian or not, to have someone in that role. (There’s research about this, too: Spiritual practice makes people more resilient in the face of hardship.) We’re trained to talk to anybody, and proselytizing—which I’d never do anyway—is a definite no-no. To make Win’s character more palatable to readers, though, I deliberately made his faith rather fragile. He’s very isolated and having a spiritual crisis himself. At the same time, I tried to show that this is one reason he’s having trouble coping with his job. He needs support and doesn’t have it. He’s lost his connection to what’s larger than he is.
Cover by Odera Igbokwe
The notion of love and its role in death/the afterlife, as well as the way this relates to the needs of the dying and the dead, is a fascinating and powerful concept. I think one of the nice turns in the narrative is that Maisie, in having this great need—and (importantly) despite being an individual who some see as disposable—is also a provider, fulfilling that need for others. Is the role and treatment of individuals like Maisie important or personal for you?
Yes. Maisie isn’t modeled on any one patient, but I’ve met a lot of people like her in the ER. They show up with complaints no one can figure out, because what they really need is social contact; this is an inappropriate use of medical resources, but simply being with other people can also be genuinely life-saving. I’m very sympathetic to such patients, and—more generally—to anyone who tends to be stigmatized, including patients with addictions or mental illnesses. I have a history of depression myself, and volunteering is part of how I keep myself well, so I see myself in Maisie. Trying to help other people is how I help myself. I’ve also witnessed more instances than I can count of patients helping each other, even with simple things like cab fare or watching kids while someone goes off to X-ray. Being useful, which is how many of us demonstrate love in action, is a basic human need.
As usual, Win was late to work. Since he hadn’t had time to eat breakfast at home, he arrived at his office—tucked into the old wing of the hospital, now a maze of ancient files and obscure personnel—clutching a styrofoam vat of cafeteria coffee, a donut balanced atop it. He wore jeans and hiking boots and a wrinkled pinstripe dress shirt, from which his ID badge hung crookedly. “Winston Z, MDiv, LCSW, BCC,” it read. In the badge photo, he was smiling. That had been a long time ago.
If he’d known that his boss would be waiting for him, he would have ironed the shirt. If he’d known that her boss would be waiting, he would have called in sick.
He’d been looking down at the donut as he approached his office, which meant he had no chance to duck down a stairwell. They’d already seen him. As soon as he looked up, his boss Sara—Director of Social Services—shook her head. Sara’s boss Roxanne, one of a seemingly infinite number of Vice Presidents of Regulatory Affairs, narrowed her eyes and glared. Both of them wore elegant suits and understated jewelry. Roxanne’s hair, tastefully highlighted and cut in sculptural angles, probably cost more to maintain than Win’s car.
Win did his best to smile. “Good morning. How nice that you’re here to help me get into my office. Hold these?” He handed his coffee and donut to Roxanne, whose expression didn’t change. Sara cleared her throat. Win unlocked the door to his windowless cubby and ushered them inside. “As you can see, there’s only room for my desk and one chair in here. One of us can sit and the other two can perch. Shall we draw straws?” He heard the thin edge of panic in his voice. He was sure they did, too.
My turn: Peter Beagle, one of my favorite authors, has two newish books out, and the second I learned about them I ordered them from Winston Smith. I just finished “Summerlong,” focusing on a goddess’s daughter who finds herself among humans she loves — and vice versa — but complicated relationships like these never work out predictably.
The other is “In Calabria,” about how a grumpy southern Italian recluse handles his discovery of a unicorn on his rocky farm … and how this creature changes his life.
For more info on DREAMS OF DISTANT SHORES, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover by Thomas Canty
For more info on THE FATE OF MICE, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover by Ann Monn
For more info on SUMMERLONG, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover art by Magdalena Korzeniewska
Design by Elizabeth Story
For more info about IN CALABRIA, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover design by Elizabeth Story