Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

‘Al’ by Carol Emshwiller

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Little did I realise then, or I might not have felt so energetic, the hardships I was to encounter here in this strange, elusive never-never land.

Success! I should have started with the first bloody story! This is what I pointed at when I point at slipstream.

Al crashlands in a valley which is a true liminal space, the first we have seen in this collection. His short, pithy paragraphs (as quoted above) are counterpointed by a much more open, winding narrative from one of the natives. But these are not the sort of lost valley natives you would expected from, say, one of Chabon’s pulps. There is a nice low key interplay between the two which becomes deeper and richer and odder as the story progresses.

Quality: ****
Slipperiness: ****

The inclusion of ‘Al’ does raise some questions about Kessel and Kelly’s selection criteria though.They exclude quintessential slipstream writers such as Donald Barthelme on the dubious grounds that they are no longer active (ie dead.) Yet Emshwiller’s story is from 1972, considerably pre-dating Sterling’s coining of the word slipstream, and she was born before Barthelme. Since both writers are clearly working in the same tradition – as are SF contemporaries of Emshwiller such as Damon Knight and Barry Malzberg, according to their introduction – it seems perverse to include one and exclude the others.

Part of Feeling Very Strange

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Written by Martin

8 October 2008 at 11:04

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