1997 - SLIPPAGE

The SPIDER Symposion: in-depth discussion of specific Ellison stories and works.

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1997 - SLIPPAGE

Postby Jan » Mon Jan 09, 2006 6:44 am

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SLIPPAGE

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In this outrageous, wildly imaginative, and critically acclaimed collection, Harlan Ellison celebrates four decades of writing and his seventieth book. The award-winning novella "Mefito in Onyx" is the centerpiece of this brilliant and irreverent masterpiece, which talks about slippages of all kinds: of life, art, heart attacks, and earthquakes.

Winner of the Locus Poll Award.

This book is in print | Ask Harlan to send you a personalized hardcover edition for $20, see shop. | Langerhans info page | Book and Story Review by K.C. Locke | Overall Review by Dorman T. Shindler
We have seperate threads for Mefisto in Onyx and The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore.

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The Pale Silver Dollar of the Moon Pays Its Way and Makes Change (1994)

This is really a lovely little gem, two versions of which are printed in SLIPPAGE. I wonder if anyone knows which one was originally published elsewhere. The main difference of the second version are the Presley twins’ bookends providing added dimension. On the whole I prefer the first version, and I would have expanded on the Presley idea seperately. Of course we we can only make assumptions about which version was actually written first, and I would guess the first one was done second because of artistic choices that feel better to me.

Another slight difference is that the date of the first episode is either 1934 or 1939, the latter one being the realistic one if we can assume that Harlan is being autobiographical, with the exception of the clearly fictional bits in the second version. The reason to assume that Harlan actually made those experiences is that we know that voice and we know that character. This being a story, he may have taken a liberty or two somewhere. I haven’t heard about him living in Kentucky as an Army reporter, but I may just have forgotten.

The story fits right in with the theme of the book - life slipping away. The one thing he says here by juxtaposing world events with snapshots of his life is, in my opinion: I’m here for a period of time, and little does it matter. He didn’t invent anything; it was politicians and dictators for the most part that managed to exert an influence upon world history, be it a negative or a positive one. Most of these things Harlan didn’t fight for or fight against or even know about at the time (especiall when he was a child), and when I say Harlan, the same goes for any of us.

It is interesting that Harlan does not include the fact that he’s a writer, and that by being read and listened to does have a certain amount of influence. He certainly was politically active throughout his middle years, and perhaps that experience of possessing little power and having to go though the few channels that are open to him, has had an impact on this story and his (seeming) withdrawal from political issues outside from making his opinions known to those who listen.

What I find the most touching - and I know this is also the case with many of you - is the first bit about Harlan’s birthday. In his works, most prominently perhaps in “Jeffty”, he has managed to make that magic dreamland that was his childhood come alive for the readers by occasionally returning to it and adding to the mythology. The reason why his childhood is so important is that it made him what he is, and to a large degree he already was who he is - he knows that and makes us feel it too. He really doesn’t distinguish so much between what he was then and what he is now, as is the norm. Harlan would have been a natural to write a childhood novel to pull it all together. But in a way he did.

What I like about the first version is the late mention of Harlan crying. The second version mentions the comic books, though - a brilliant touch. We’re partial to a bit of innocence lost, a discovery (one of many, I’m sure) by Harlan that the world is not what he would like it to be, that he has not achieved popularity by regular means. Being popular at that age probably has much to do with looks and speech - I’m not sure young children take much else into consideration. You look different, you wear the wrong clothes, you’re treated different.

Anyway, the experience taught Harlan something, which ties in with the story being about learning and growing up. The meeting with Carl Sandburg by whom Harlan was “very impressed” seems to demystify what a writer does and at the same time says something about the role of the writer. In a way, what Sandburg did was part of his job. We’ve seen Harlan do it too, if we’ve looked carefully enough.

The other entries also include lessons that were important to Harlan at particular stages in his life. The story, being short, is not so much about what he personally took away from them but about what we take away from every experience, thereby becoming more adapted to this world and more able to realize our goals while at the same time having less and less time to do it in.

I hope this “helps” and look forward to your views. I haven’t thought much about the Presley twins, but I thought I better leave the difficult stuff for you. My rating: :| :| :| :oops:
Last edited by Jan on Sat Apr 18, 2009 1:46 pm, edited 16 times in total.

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Postby Jan » Mon Jan 09, 2006 11:30 am

You can also check out Dorman T. Shindler's views on both versions over at Webderland. I did not read his opinion until now. I would like to quote this bit for your consideration:

A masterful blend of historical fact and semi-autobiographical notation, Mr. Ellison assembles it all in a manner that provides some perspective for his life in comparison with history and world events. At the end of his years (and long may that time be in arriving), who will know? What will we have of him but what he has told us?

And what will it matter? More frightening and heart-breaking still, will it matter? The facts are easily obtainable: the Lindbergh Baby Kidnaping; the horrors of HUAC; the Castro regime; Eichmann’s capture and execution; Vietnam and Franco; Reagan and Zimbabwe and AIDS. You could look it up.

But who will there be to tell you about that little boy’s birthday party; or dancing at the sock-hop with that girl with the leg brace; or Sandburg, or that dear friend in Santa Monica, or the doves above the door?
Last edited by Jan on Sun Jun 15, 2008 8:03 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby John E Williams » Thu Jan 12, 2006 10:04 am

I first encountered this story in an anthology called The Elvis Reader (which also happens to be where the great "Bubba Ho-Tep" made its debut). I read it as something it very probably was: a work solicited and altered to include an Elvis angle so it could be included in the book, rather than any sincere comment Ellison wished to make about Elvis. Once transferred wholly to the Ellison character, the story flowed purely and freely as it was presumably intended. It's a beautiful and haunting work.

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?????

Postby sjarrett » Sun Jan 15, 2006 9:41 pm

Okay, I'd love to offer some comments on this piece, but first I have to ask a dumb question. I have stared at the table of contents of my hardcover first edition of SLIPPAGE until beads of sweat popped out on my forehead; I have thumbed its pages repeatedly; I have examined it under a black light; I have cast the runes over it; I have placed it on my turntable and attempted to play it backwards -- and I cannot, no matter how I try, find a second version of "The Pale Silver Dollar of the Moon Pays Its Way and Makes Change." Could the second version possibly have been something that was added in subsequent printings/editions?

rich

Postby rich » Mon Jan 16, 2006 7:01 am

Steve,
The two versions are in the paperback (or, I guess one could call it the trade edition 'cause it's basically the same size as the hardcover) put out by Mariner Books, which is a division of Houghton Mifflin--the guys that published the hardcover.

Not sure why they have the two versions in the paperback and not in the hardcover (and I'll let it go at that as that's a different thread). Also, the paperback has the Nackles essay, original story, and the teleplay.

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Postby Jan » Tue Jan 31, 2006 3:55 am

Harlan in Pavillion wrote:Wanted to get in on the current S.P.I.D.E.R. thread re "The Pale Silver Dollar of the Moon Pays Its Way and Makes Change." There are some amusing and possibly revelatory sidelights to this one, in both its versions, and I wanted to share; but when I tried to log on, it asked me for my code name or whatever, and if I have one that Rick gave me, I've forgotten it. So I couldn't pop in, for which I'm sorry. Maybe next time. Maybe Rick will refresh me. Who knows?

But the answer to why the Houghton Mifflin hardcover 1st edition of SLIPPAGE only has one version, is because we did a non-trade simultaneous hardcover limited, slipcased&autographed
edition with Mark Zeising Books. A gorgeous edition with a Jill Bauman cover I consider to be one of the two/three/four best covers I've ever had. And when HM balked, and didn't want to include three or four of the pieces I wanted in the book, plus they wanted to use a far-less-arresting dj, I didn't rassle with them, or stamp me widdle foot--I just took the three or four additional pieces, and put them into the limited first edition as lagniappe. The limited sold out. Fast.

When we went to paperback with the Mariner Books imprint of HM, they sorta hemmed and hawed and asked if we could reinstate the exclusive pieces from the Ziesing edition in their trade pb. So we did.

But the story of how that story came to be written in the first place is a hoot.

Maybe some other time.

Yr. pal, Harlan

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Postby sjarrett » Fri Feb 10, 2006 11:37 am

Having finally scored a copy of the trade paper edition of “Slippage,” I am at last in a position to contribute to this thread.

It seems to me that this piece is emblematic of what DANGEROUS VISIONS was, in part, about. I was pretty young when DV was published, and so all I saw in the concept was the notion of collecting “unpublishable” work. I didn’t really give all that much thought to what it was that limited the commercial viability of the material in the anthology. I suppose I thought mainly in terms of taboo subject matter. That was part of it, to be sure, but what I didn’t pick up on until A,DV came along was that it was also, in part, a question of taboo forms. It was as if Harlan had been saying, “Come on, kids! Jules Verne was great, but he’s dead a long time now. James Joyce has shifted the landscape, and so has Virginia Woolf, and so has William Faulkner. You’re writing about the future using the literary tools of the past. Let’s get in the game!”

I think it’s interesting that the emergence of stream of consciousness in literature roughly coincides with the emergence of atonality in music. Both art forms were experimenting with leaving the safe harbor of forms that had been the norm for centuries to test themselves in newer, more dangerous waters. In both cases, there are those works that venture out tentatively, always keeping in sight of shore, and those that push on over the horizon. As Arnold Schoenberg took a deep breath and left the tonal center behind in his Second String Quartet, he was moved to evoke the words of Stefan George: “I feel the air of other worlds” [“Ich fuhle Luft von anderen Planeten”]. Whether you are a composer leaving behind the key signature or a writer leaving behind the Aristotelian unities, the air is different out there; intoxicating and, yes, dangerous.

It strikes me that one of Harlan’s favorite devices when moving away from traditional narrative forms has been to present a kind of collage of mini-narratives that coalesce to form an overall narrative. “The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World” is an early piece that points in that direction, while “The Deathbird” and “The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore” are more fully formed examples. The first version of “Pale Silver Dollar” is similarly structured, but it seems to me that it pushes farther away from the safe harbor of exposition-complication-crisis-climax than any other Ellison fiction I can think of. Put another way, it seems to be a purer example of stream of consciousness than is typical of Harlan’s work.

Most of the anecdotes and references in the piece seem to have to do with kindnesses, large and small, and outrages, large and small. The section that dominates by virtue of its length, however – the Sandburg anecdote – seems on an initial reading to be a meditation on the nature of authenticity. The reader is left to connect those dots on his/her own. Here’s how I connect them – your linkages may be different (without, of course, being one whit less valid than mine; that’s one of the things that makes this kind of fiction fun). The sections that surround the Sandburg anecdote relate incidents that play out either on a very small and personal level or on a very large societal level. Rereading the Sandburg section with that in mind, I was drawn to this line, in which Sandburg sums up his feelings about the actual manuscript originals of his poems: “They just don’t look important enough.” The bottom line is that it’s not the authenticity, real or apparent, of the actual originals that Sandburg is calling into question. Rather, it is the perceived importance of them. Seen in that light, the juxtapositions in the surrounding sections resolve themselves into a series of implied questions: is the pain of a grade school child who is snubbed by his classmates important enough to be mentioned in the same breath with Mao’s retreat from Chaing Kai-shek?; is one water-damaged bookcase important enough to be coupled with temples destroyed by a Burmese earthquake?; and so on. At the same time, the story answers its own questions by the very act of making those juxtapositions. Clearly, the author felt that the micro and the macro do belong side by side. And if we, as readers, are brought up short by those groupings, we are left to ask ourselves why. Most especially, if we are similarly brought up short by Sandburg’s insistence that his genuine original manuscripts are less important than his forgeries, we must ponder our own inconsistency of thought. If small, personal anecdotes are not important enough to be placed alongside anecdotes on a societal scale, why should we question Sandburg’s insistence that his typewritten manuscripts are of lesser importance than the holographic forgeries? Anyway, that’s where the piece leads me.

The only other thing I wanted to mention about it is that I love the wordplay in the title. “Pays Its Way and Makes Change” can, of course, be read straightforwardly as making change in the sense of currency. But it can also be read as making change in the sense of creating a difference. I like that a lot.

The second version of “Pale Silver Dollar,” it seems to me, pulls back a bit closer to the narrative safe harbor by framing the earlier version with a more traditional narrative spine. It becomes less a pure stream of consciousness piece and more like one of those collages of mini-narratives. I like it, but not as much as I like the original. The waft of alien air is still there, but we are not compelled to breathe it from start to finish as in the original version. It’s less dangerous. To return to the music analogy, the framing story provides a key signature. By setting up the Elvis story in the first section, the return to it at the end provides a comforting cadence. It’s like the satisfying return to the home key at the end of a movement. Satisfying, but not as dangerous.

Steve J.

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Postby Jan » Sat Feb 11, 2006 4:20 am

I have just a few moments before I leave for a few days, so I must be very brief. Interesting, Steve, it seems you have found your key to the story in the Sandburg anecdote. The weakness I see in your (valid) interpretation is that I perceive no link to the Slippage theme of the book - the theme of the book and the title of the story suggest that time is indeed an important part of the story - and by extension no apparent connection to Harlan's personal life/character that may have led him to write the piece. I believe it's very personal, this being a Harlan story. The two meanings of the title could be a coincidence (which I think is the case), but either way, if your interpretation is indeed correct, this would make the title a pretty arbitrarily chosen one, unless you have an explanation for it. :-)

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Postby Jan » Fri Jun 13, 2008 3:52 am

Midnight in the Sunken Cathedral (1997) is another one of those stories based on a science fiction idea one could theoretically find in other writers’s books. It seems like something that Clarke might have been interested in doing. Bradbury went in a different direction in MARS IS HEAVEN! It is both a story of wonder and of discovery, the place being discovered by the protagonist being Atlantis. I’m not sure how many stories have been written about Atlantis - it’s a concept yearning to be used because you can do anything you like with it. Where is Atlantis, what does it look like, and, most importantly, who lives there, if anyone’s still alive? Harlan is using the Bermuda Triangle and similar places where ships have vanished as entry points to Atlantis.

The writer immedeately begins establishing a sense of darkness, otherworldliness, creepiness, and foreboding at the expense of using perhaps too many words without seeming to be up to much. So a guy has gone diving in the deep sea, and he thinks of his father, before seeing an underwater waterfall and being pulled down by a creature. Only then did the story grab me with the first inkling of arriving someplace new and unknown. He is no longer under the sea but somewhere else entirely, on Atlantis, on Mars, as it turns out. He might have been killed along the way, which would make Atlantis a third place next to heaven and hell. However, one prefers to think he’s alive - why else would there be reasonable explanations for how he got there and why Atlantis is on Mars. Either way, he has been saved, not only from drowning but from humanity.

This is where the story takes on its specific Harlan quality by dealing with human pain. We’re out of Borges, Bradbury, Poe territory. Atlantis in this story is a place where it seems your last or deepest wishes come true. David’s last thought may have been of his father, who he never had the opportunity to talk to. His father’s wish before he died had been to see his son grow up. Now, after fourty years they have a chance to catch up and spend time together. There is no explanation for why his father would be there - he died far from the ocean. But it doesn’t matter, we can tell this isn’t some elaborate hoax, the interaction is real. The writer makes a point about how each one of us would love to get a chance to talk to the people we have lost. There is always something important left to tell them that we didn’t think of in time.

Of course, this story will speak more or differently to some than to others, but it’s certainly directed even at people who haven’t yet lost an awful number of friends and family. The death of David’s father was totally sudden and unexpected. We don’t know how long people are going to be around, for how long we can still spend time with them. As a matter of fact, we don’t know how long WE will be around. Slippage. It’s just something to consider. I’m sure there is something of Harlan’s father in this story, the one we met in ONE LIFE… (I don’t remember at what point in Harlan’s life he went away, but it was early on.)

I kind of liked the vague explanation for the departure of the people of Atlantis, who left only a legend. Obviously, they feel there is something wrong with humans all throughout known history. When asked if they’ve changed, David only shakes his head. Of course, one would like to know what exactly the problem is, but I believe Harlan has written about that elsewhere. In another book by another writer one would probably demand more of an explanation. :| :| :|

Originally posted March 14th, 2006.
The story was inspired by a Michael Whelan painting shown in HARLAN ELLISON'S DREAM CORRIDOR Volume 1.
Harlan recorded this story for his Voice from the Edge audio book series.

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Postby Jan » Fri Jun 13, 2008 5:06 am

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Darkness Upon the Face of the Deep (1991)

Two men who have been friends since childhood, Loder and Shafka, have met in the middle east to find a tomb hoped to reveal an ancient secrets of the Hittite empire. Their guide in the region, Yaffa, takes them into the mountains where people have been living an isolated, traditional life.

This is an archeological adventure story, probably inspired by films such as The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (which also featured a glowing stone). Unlike most of Harlan's stories it has a team of protagonists with Harlan focusing on the interplay between them while they approach their destination. They're all portrayed vividly and provide solid entertainment, while Harlan creates an atmosphere of forbidden lands, mystery and danger. The situations lead to minor bits of character development. If the story has a close relative, it would be "Grail". The ending is merely adequate, so that in retrosepect you realize it's the voyage that counts.

The story features a homosexual character. I don't remember homosexuals appearing in any previous fiction by Harlan that I read, but chances are it's not in fact the first time. It's a well-handled little scene.

Perhaps this would be a good time to mention that Harlan rarely seems blessed with good editors. Too many of his stories contain minor annoyances that a good editor would catch. For example, from this story: On page 79, who would remember all those names Yaffa went by? On page 83, buttom, I would like to know that they get out of the car and not have to infer this two paragraphs late. On pages 87 and 88, the ground splits three times. On page 89, the sentence, "At the same time, they heard the beating of wings" seems redundant. I'm not against old-fashioned repetition, but in these cases they're slightly distracting. In general I don't mind old-fashioned repetition.

The story appeared in Aboriginal Science Fiction with illustrations by Paul Chadwick as well as in the prestige edition of the Twilight Zone comic book written by Harlan. The e-version is here. My rating: :| :| :|

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Postby Jan » Tue Jun 24, 2008 9:56 am

Go Toward the Light (1995)

A Jewish member of a team of time-travelling historians has a discussion with an orthodox colleague about miracles. He secretly goes back in time to prove his point about an ancient religious mystery.

This is a kind of impious Jewish "christmas" story, apparently written at the request of an editor and clearly meant to be fun. I enjoyed the brief and amusing discussion that opened the story but found the rest of it not very good and a bit obvious. It's doubtful that one of the few people trained for time-travel would do the things he does in this story unless being a total idiot is one of the job requirements. If these are time-travelling historians, is there any protocol at all? As an attempt at humor, the story sort of does its job, though it goes back and forth between being "serious" and "funny". This was first broadcast on National Public Radio in December 1994 as a segment of Chanukah Lights and later revised for magazine publication. :| :oops:

Addendum 1/09: According to Harlan, one of the characters is based on an old friend of his, "the bookseller and antiquarian expert, Barry Levin".
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Postby Jan » Mon Oct 06, 2008 8:05 am

Chatting with Anubis (1995)

A cataclysmic temblor has brought to light lost lands and permitted the discovery of the mythical Shrine of Ammon underneath the Sahara. A young Chinese scientist named Wang investigates it with a companion and meets Anubis, the Egyptian god of death rites.

When Harlan received his lifetime achievement award from the Horror Writers Association, they also presented him with a Bram Stoker Award for "Chatting with Anubis". It was first published in Lore #1 and in an issue of Dream Corridor, then later in Fantasy & Science Fiction (7/96).

This is another archeological adventure story in the spirit of "Darkness Upon the Face of the Deep", written with tongue in cheek and based on scraps of mythology and ancient history. It's one of the shorter stories in the book though, and to me it looks like the little brother of "Darkness". Some positive things first: Contained within those few pages are adventure and fun and a sense of discovery comparable to Doyle and Borges, for however brief it all lasts. He also manages to make history and mythology fascinating, even if there is speculation involved. The scope of the story is fairly unique, bridging millennia and referencing several historical events, personalities and mythologies.

On the other hand the story seems rushed the same way "Darkness" did. Harlan seemed to be so eager to get where he wants to go that he doesn't set up the characters and the situation in a way that really prepares one for the main part. I think it's fair to say that every story needs to be grounded in something - this one is strange even before it arrives at the fantastic. The story could have done without the (unlikely) temblor which doesn't make it any more credible, and Harlan could have more properly introduced believable characters. I can accept the characters' motivation when they make their descent, of course, but it's all remote on an emotional level. Perhaps Wang read "Go Toward the Light" and gleaned his insights on how scientists are meant to behave from that. I couldn't really see what's going on some of the time - details were missing. As far as I know, if you drill a hole in the Sahara, it would fill up with water and the shaft would not illuminate itself in the night. Air would start escaping from the hollow space beneath the second one begins lifting the lid.

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The chat with Anubis is a terriffic, brief scene and you begin to see what Harlan was going for. We ignore the question of why Anubis is still there while all the other gods are dead, we are happy he's there and available for a chat. What a nice idea - a chat with a god, and a god with a cool sense of humor. What Anubis sees as his job makes sense to me - not spoiling it here. A great secret is mentioned yet not passed along to the reader, though the narrator writes, "It's all here." I'm sure it is, but I think it's more likely we'll hear it from Anubis himself after the next big quake than we are to find it in this story. Too bad. Perhaps someone else can find a clue. One could speculate that the secret has to do with religion, death, and the afterlife, since that's really all that Anubis knows about. Certainly after knowing the secret, material matters cease to be important. The only thing I know for sure is that the afterlife has a problem if its gatekeeper is the only member of staff that's left. I think the grass may need occasional cutting and so on. If the afterlife doesn't need any maintenance, Osiris and the other frauds deserved their deaths.

As for this story winning a prestigious horror award, of all things, I can see it's a fairly good story, at least the main part of it. Perhaps the association figured out the great secret and gave Harlan the award as a thank you for how he changed their lives. One thing is certain though: One doesn't get "scared" except once, in the brief moment when the narrator is under some kind of gratuitous attack. That bit is well done and it boasts the best line. There is humor throughout. The sense of danger is inherently limited by the narrator being unable to die until he completes the story. (Also we don't care much for him.) I could imagine his companion screaming and dying but didn't see that happen either. This is not a horror story, it's an adventure story. :| :| :oops:

The Dreams a Nightmare Dreams (1995)

The creature that killed the dinosaurs has woken up from its slumber and taken notice of humans, whom it intends to kill the same way, by invading their minds.

A very short one about people defending us with their dreams which sometimes interfere with the images on television, movie, and computer screens. This reads like a MIND FIELDS story with the picture missing, but then I saw this note on the copyright page: Originally appeared as an audio cassette narrated by the author, included with the “H.R. Giger Screensaver” by Cyberdreams. I can see how that fits, but what is it doing here, without any explanation? I wanted to see this as a story about the necessity of imagination, which I guess it is, but the mention of screen savers startled me out of it. When I think of imagination, I don't think of computers. "Dreams" lacks a solid foundation the same way the previous story did. It doesn't begin to establish some kind of reality, nor does it contain a believable sense of urgency in line with the final statement. If the narrator is concerned he sure has his emotions in check. Harlan is content with this being a fantasy and only a fantasy. :| :oops:

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Postby Jan » Sat Oct 18, 2008 12:35 pm

The Museum on Cyclops Avenue (1995) – A young university professor tells a colleague about the events that took place in Stockholm, from where he just returned. The story involves a woman he fell in love with and an extraordinary museum she showed him. - Earlier review by K.C. Locke.

This is yet another fantasy story with many references to mythology. It’s now becoming hard for me not to comment on this fact itself. Where, in SLIPPAGE, are the stories concerned with our life today, our problems? While a lot of these stories deal with the human condition in some way, they are mainly entertainments that skip over the present and recent past and draw on a distant, often fictional past without illuminating what we are today. These stories have all the scope in the world but show little of the depth Harlan is capable of. Being more experienced than ever, he must have had more to say in the 90s than ever before, but for some reason he seemed to say less and less for a long time after reaching some kind of pinnacle and closure with “Paladin of the Lost Hour” (ANGRY CANDY).

“Museum” is written in first-person conversational style, a fictional device of limited use not well adapted to a story like this. I’ve talked before about the necessity, which I think Harlan and most SF/F writers agree on, of establishing some kind of reality before moving into fantastical territory. A conversational narration style may seem like a good way to do that but it’s really not. Only where the artificial-sounding narration begins to resemble written language does the content really shine through for a couple of pages, without disturbance. Perhaps it is not an opinion shared by everyone, but I feel that a writer should use his best style on the page and limit the use of colloquial style to real life and dialogue. Sentences like “Don’t worry, I’ll skip that part” (not exact quote) are decisions that a writer should make behind his curtain, not on the page. Nor does an overuse of italics or anything else connected with “colourful” speech help this story.

“Museum” features one of Harlan’s strongest female characters ever, comparable only to the character in “Footsteps”. His vivid presentation of her makes this story what it is. One could argue she’s just a man’s fantasy, and that’s very true, but she’s not a common kind of fantasy in the pages of a book. She’s really a comic book fantasy woman with a solid core of truth in her. Despite some good work here on Harlan’s part, “Footsteps” remains the much stronger story about love and passion. Which brings us to the narrator whose name I didn’t catch. He may have all the wit and language skills of Harlan, but Harlan is such an interesting guy that, in SLIPPAGE, it’s surprising he comes up with these boring, interchangeable male characters in one story after another. Is there any more to this professor than the fact that he likes sex? I don’t believe in this guy one second and don’t see why I should care about him. Putting a subtitle on an academic paper that he wouldn’t be able to explain – maybe that’s cool but he just doesn't strike me as remotely professor-like.

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Why Agnes is interested in him, remains unclear. The fact that for a time she is, cheapens her, if anything. Her actions raise a number of questions. But let's move on to the museum. I try never to spoil anything significant in the stories for you, so I can only say this is a good page written decently, not dragged down by the style. We were led to expect a surprise and got one. Now, I think it’s fair to say that this museum and its curator were what the story was all about. While Harlan presents the concept in the best fashion he can, I wonder why he doesn’t do anything with it. All it’s really the springboard for is an erotic love story involving at least one very superficial character. All of it, especially the museum, would look great in a comic book or on film, but for prose literature I fear there is not enough going on, not on any level. I don’t mind stories of discovery but I only really like them if the discoveries are connected with meaningful action. "Museum" is by no means a failure though. :| :|

Addendum: According to K.C. Locke, "Museum" was inspired by by Ron Brown’s "Dream Corridor" cover-art.

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Postby Jan » Wed May 27, 2009 2:43 am

The Dragon on the Bookshelf (co-written by Robert Silverberg) (1995) - The toy dragon of a woman in San Francisco is not really a toy but a creature with feelings and an important mission. - Earlier review by K.C. Locke.

This is one of the shorter stories in the book and one that falls into the divertissement category - it comes and goes fast. However, it also happens to be very touching, very amusing, and rather unpredictable, accomplishing a lot in the space of a few pages that some of the longer stories don’t accomplish. Silverberg’s contribution must have been either small or he adapted so well to Harlan’s sensitivity that it feels like the latter’s writing all the way, even though one might argue it is a little bit better than usual. Thematically, the story contains elements of “The City on the Edge of Forever”, which is fine since that was never a story, but one wishes that Harlan and Bob would have borrowed some of the scope of that teleplay as well and permitted themselves, for example, to spend a bit more time developing the woman. There is something too comic-bookish about the story that prevents it from being completely realized, good as it is. It was inspired by a Tim Kirk sculpture shown in the book. :| :| :| :oops:

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She's a Young Thing and Cannot Leave Her Mother (1988) - A man is driving around Scotland to find the place where his woman, the mysterious Camilla, comes from and that she wants to see again. - Earlier review by K.C. Locke.

This is a very classical horror story in the tradition of Poe but set in modern times and influenced by the sort of speculative true crime writing Harlan himself did at one point. He “returned” once more to Scotland here, a place that probably took on even more meaning for him after he met Susan there. As far as I can remember, however, physically the place never really played a large role before - he makes ample use of it here. A mystery is at the center of the story - who is Camilla? The name alone is an interesting choice, reminding one of Le Fanus Carmilla and not being very contemporary. The protagonist is an interesting creation as well, related to Harlan in so far as being a romantic projection of what he might have become had he not returned home and not found his calling. As an aside we get an observation from him about the judgmental nature of people which seems to be part of the reason why the protagonist is such a drifter. “People they never met, an only read about in a newspaper or saw on the telly, they decide this or that about them…this is a good guy, and that’s a sick and a weird guy.” Now, the protagonist has not been on the telly, but Harlan certainly has been and they made a movie about him too.

Harlan may have stumbled upon the historical facts and legends and been inspired to write the story. It is certainly convincing enough, though I don’t understand what the two of them are afraid of from the get-go. I'm sure there are reasons. Setting-wise, towards the end, Harlan goes under ground again, as he does so often. The prose is flawless. The message: You should never do what your wives or girlfriends want. I was pleasantly surprised by both these stories. I had read “Dragon” before, but “Young Thing” I never got around to which has to do with it being the next-to-last story and no one ever mentioning it. :| :| :| :oops:

Link: Wilson's Almanac on Sawney Beane

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Postby Jan » Tue Oct 13, 2009 1:43 pm

The Man Who Rowed Christoher Columbus Ashore (1992)

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Post by JaySmith » Wed Nov 09, 2005 3:00 pm
An Essay

By Jay Smith, Age 34

On Wednesday, the ninth of Kilpitnik, he opened the word processor and typed, "Where the hell are you, muse?"

A few minutes later The Muse smacked him on the head. It wasn’t quite a literal muse-intervention, but a musing by proxy as the writer’s son smacked him in the head with a Matchbox school bus.

Sort on sleep, time and temper, he rushed through his morning with little result and at lunch time felt something shift in his head, something slip inside his skull, a slight dizziness and shortness of breath.

He'd had to discipline the child. Linked memories. Strange passages from one place to another time and through avenues of nostalgia with recollections that had little to do with the greater issues The Writer had to deal with. Overwhelming, oppressive -- recurring; Life, finances, selfish dreams and sacrifices for the family. Mom in the hospital, 81 years old. Like the day The Towers fell; never expected it. Another scare. Just like dad. The first tower. They didn't fall either time, but soon...

...someday, they'll slip. It will ALL slip.

This provoked The Writer to get up, go through the physical objects of his former life, most of which had been shoved and stuffed and squeezed and folded into a small closet by the front door and covered by coats and tax records, old bills and outgrown clothes prepared for donation.

"Fibber McGee ain’t got nothin’ on me," he bitched as he pulled out the winter jackets, the bounce-chair, the old 8mm projector he inherited from his grandfather, paper crates of bagged comics, a box of loose action figures and finally to a six-foot book case filled with perfect paperbacks he’d never gotten around to reading and ragged copies of books he’d read far too much.

In fact, when his wife moved into the place, she immediately but slowly pushed his life - which amounted to periodicals, certificates, "toys", books, manuscripts and other things unnecessary to his new life - onto a single bookshelf at the back of the closet.

In the middle of this life there was Slippage.

Years earlier, on Sunday the eightieth of Skrelnik, Levendis showed up early to the tithe drive at Calvary United Methodist on Locust Lane and convinced an associate minister to move the big projection screen from the meeting room to the chapel so that the faithful (and/or fearful) could feel the full weight of The Lord staring down at them as they were asked for more money. The minister agreed and fifty people assembled in the pews that night before the pulpit just as most of them had that morning and gazed upon the same place that was built to bring them hope. In place of the morning's candles and flowers, and in front of the baptismal basin a giant PowerPoint slide presentation displayed an image of a bloody Christ mounted to his cross next to a dollar sign and a cartoonish question mark. Each was of equal size. There was no caption to explain the relationship.

At that moment, the Writer entered the church looking for hope. He’d given up on religion as a teenager, but his ties there - as a singer in the choir, an acolyte and bible school student - were strong enough that he gave the place one last chance. All he wanted was a word with God.

The Writer passed the offices and the kitchen and the empty meeting room and looked down the aisle of the chapel where his sister had been married and where he once sang praises to Jesus and made his parents proud. In place of the altar and before the stained glass window was a tacky 10-foot projected image of a Dollar Sign and a man’s voice saying, "It’s not enough that you give what you can..."

Someone laughed out of turn at the front of the chapel and the Writer stormed out, vowing never to ask God for happiness or to spare his loved one’s from the pain He inflicted in the first place.

A memory of the Introduction to "Angry Candy" stayed with The Writer and he found his copy of Slippage, hoping for the sound of The Author’s righteous indignation to drown out his own.

And the pressure began to build, because it wasn’t the answer The Writer wanted from The Author he hoped would endorse.

There is no "He" or "Her" or "They" and if there are greater beings, appealing to them would be like bacterium appealing to its host to understand and heed its individual desires.

Do what needs to be done.

Chance favors the prepared mind. Take your prayers to nature, but let them be prayers of thanks and not wants. Beware the man who sells you Hope. Find your own luck. Take your chances. Or as The Author advised The Writer on the evening of November 26th, 2001: "Don't look for gods, because sublime creation lies within you already."

And as The Writer looked over his life and the once-bright remains of his former life dried into the color of tea stains and dead leaves, he slipped. Not all at once, but in degrees, one force working against the other, tension building until it shattered and he found himself sitting inside the closet staring out at the world, not wanting to return. You cannot wait for breaks. You are nothing but what you make of yourself and the circus will never come looking for you. If you want to be in the gilly, you gotta run off and join it.

And all the places and powers and choices Levendis makes make him a very human animal, given power to do what many of us would consider in our imaginations or take pride in doing if we had the power. Levendis is not universally benevolent or gentle, not wise or in control of all the forces at work. He just does what he feels is necessary or what he wants depending on the time, place and mood.

This is not his vision quest to right wrongs and set people right. He is the coyote and the super-hero, the sage and the idiot, a priest and a murderer as required to indirectly create his desired results.

As a parent, I sometimes have to be the instigator or the heavy-handed resolution. Each choice I make influences the kind of person that child one day will become. As the husband I have to be the voice of reason or the voice of support, a manipulator of emotions and actions to preserve the union while respecting the individual. With all people and things, I am the one who makes it happen, not Kazoo or Djinn; I must DO, not only to achieve what I set out to achieve, but to create a better world around me - for myself and my family. God won’t save my dad. A doctor will. God won’t put my checking account back in the black, my employer will. God won’t cast a spell to wipe my mind of all the trouble and regret. I must overcome it myself.

Slippage, the weight of a decade of dreams and assumptions, waiting and hoping for the time I could redeem my Karma credits for good tidings and success. Even here, today, having buried the book under a mountain of forgotten moments I felt the worlds of my past shifting against one another, the new trying to force the other down beneath, a life in need of dominance over another struggling to keep from crumbling away. Slippage. A sudden jolt, a burst of one over the other. The forces I cannot control I pretend to.

But you can’t. Deal with what you can and work around that which you can’t.

Post by Jan » Sat Nov 12, 2005 7:23 am
Like „Repent, Harlequin“ this is very much a story by an artist – it’s about a man who is able to invent his life as he lives it, thereby being his own fictitious character. Levendis, whose job it is to exert a positive influence upon the world by using his powers, is also a character that ultimately fails in his job, a feeling that many artists must get when they begin to look back over their lives. Great power means great responsibility and requires discipline.

An artist is „unlimited“ in the sense that he or she constantly has to make use of everything inside him or her, not only the small part which we call personality or identity. The only way for such people to stay sane (and have their friends stay sane) is by creating – with more artistry and control than normal people – a fictional (more or less constant) personality while remaining receptive to everything else that’s inside. The world, being „limited“, only permits the fixed-and-approved personality.

The literature of an artist brings us in touch with the aspects of ourselves that the limited world has no use for. The many „parts“ of Levendis contained in the story are symbolically representative of the many parts of Harlan and, by extension, of all of us. While they do form a coherent whole, it is not a wholeness that a limited world has terms for. Harlan is not this and he’s not that. He probably doesn’t feel that he has always used his powers and his limited time in the best way, in a world full of temptation.

Post by JaySmith » Sat Nov 12, 2005 5:19 pm
It's about the world you make, not the world that makes you.

Post by Mindtraveller » Thu Jun 01, 2006 3:14 pm
What I enjoy the most about this story may very well be that Ellison shows that a short story does not need to be confined within a rigid structure, i.e. if the contents are good, it does not matter if it has a beginning, a middle and an end. Not in the old creative writing class kinda way, at least. The point of no return is always there, right from the start. Or, if you will, The Man Who ... contains a multitude of short stories within a single one.


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