Everything Is Nice

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

‘A Weeping Czar Beholds the Fallen Moon’ by Ken Scholes

with 3 comments

‘A Weeping Czar’ is another one from the Torque Control short story club. It was published online by Tor who also published his first novel, Lamentations, which appears to be set it the same universe. I had been interested in that novel. I am less so now. As I was reading the story I passed through several different understandings of its genre, each of which affected my enjoyment of it.

It opens with Frederico (the czar of the title) mourning the death of his thirteenth wife. This particular wife represents the province of Espira and there are many young woman eager to take her place. This is one of the tasks Frederico must attend to after her eulogy. Another is to organise a purging because although this suicide it is politically expediant to call it an assassination and blame it on the mystics. Ah ha! So this is an epic fantasy. Nobles and palace intrigue and colourful empires and so on. Well, such things are rare at short story length and the details are interesting so good stuff.

The purging turns up a strange artefact which the mystics believe puts them in communication with the moon. This “harmless curiosity of Elder Times” is a silver cresent made of an unknown metal that transmits the sound of running water. Frederico keeps it for himself and discovers it transmits words as well. These words are those of a young woman called Amal Y’Zir, daughter of the Great Blood Wizard. Surprisingly, the living god Frederice has never heard of this powerful individual. Ah ha! So this is a science fantasy. This is Earth and Amal is on the moon and they are communicating through some sort of ancient technology. I’m less keen on this type of story as it is a bit like having your cake and eating it and usually presages a revelation I will find unconvincing.

Any suggestion that this might be science fantasy in the vein of Wolfe is quickly dismissed though:

The weeping took him more often, it was true, but he’d found scarce comfort in times past. The two wives he’d most delighted in had not been able to live with the knowledge of his sorrow—the sorrow that was his family’s to bear for reasons no record remained to speak of.

That’s right, he is genetically predisposed to be made of pure emo and his sorrow is so deep and unfathomable that it has driven his favourite wives to kill themselves. Woe is me! So this is a melodrama. I shouldn’t have been surprised, the problem is, after all, suggested by the title. I just wasn’t expecting it do be so literally because who would want to read about a wet bloke moping at the moon?

It gets worse though. Amal cures him of his weeping so it must be Tru Wuv. Turns out that a thousand years ago Frederico’s forebears stole Amal’s sister away from her father, this cursed the family and caused the Blood Wizard to hide his other daughter away for eternity. Oh no! So this is a fairy tale. A melodramatic fairy tale is one thing – the two flavours go together even if they don’t taste nice – but the science fictional gloss on it makes no sense. “A thousand years ago we went to the moon and we’ve wept ever since.” What utter tosh.

Written by Martin

11 November 2009 at 16:49

3 Responses

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  1. Do you have to know what something is on the face of it to enjoy it? Is it annoying because it keeps undoing your expectations or because of the way they are undone?

    Schrodinger's lolcat

    12 November 2009 at 01:44

  2. Quite often it is nice to have your expectations subverted. There are two things here though. One is just my taste, it went in directions I was less interested in which is no failing on Scholes part. The other though, is that the gradually exposed reading weren’t particularly harmonious which I think is an issue that lies with the story itself.


    13 November 2009 at 11:35

  3. […] but the story is here. Not much pre-comment; it wasn’t James’ cup of tea, and Martin thinks it doesn’t hang together: ‘A Weeping Czar’ is another one from the Torque Control short […]

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