Sunday, August 03, 2003

The Third Alternative, Issue 34

I don't usually comment on things like this, but I think Muriel Gray's guest editorial in TTA34 needs to be addressed. Gray's vitriolic attack on Hollywood, the United States military and art in general is perhaps understandable, but not particularly well-reasoned. Her passionate distaste for the war is clouded by a despairing tone suggesting that art simply doesn't matter. Art may not change the world, and at times of crisis it can seem trivial. But it is at precisely those times of crisis that it is most necessary, most therapeutic, most needed. I'll leave it at that. On to the stories:

"Finisterre" by Patrick Samphire postulates that when the name of something is changed--a person, a place, an object--that thing actually becomes two things. The new object goes about its business, unaware of any change, while the old object, erased from our world, finds itself in Finisterre, a vast landscape of lost places and people. Thomas lost someone, his lover Jorge, back in Corazón de la Revolución, which is now San Lorenzo. When a vagrant tells him about Finisterre, Thomas finds a way to search for Jorge. Samphire leaves Finisterre largely to the reader's imagination, which leaves it feeling a bit unexplored. There are resonances of Robert Holdstock's Mythago Wood here, which is not to take anything away from the story's originality. An intriguing tale.

There is an interview with writer Alan Wall, followed by one of his short stories, called "The Legality of Dreams." Subjects of dream research appear to be the next step in human evolution, and visitations from the future suggest they are the only ones who will survive. There is a lot going on here, not all of which I can claim to understand. It's well written, but it hasn't stayed with me.

Next up is "Li Ketsuwan" by Eric Brown, a story of obsession and magic. This is a taut little tale: not the most original of premises, but an ending which is oddly affecting as well as disturbing.

"New Life" by James Sallis--whom I swear I'm running into everywhere these days--is a very short tale about, well . . . it could be about many things. It could be about the madness of urban life, or the sterility of materially-obsessed yuppie marriages, or something else I haven't thought of yet.

The next story is "Don't Touch the Blackouts" by Paul Meloy is a sad, oblique story about death and time, as so many stories seem to be. This one is very atmospheric and effective.

Mike O'Driscoll's "In the Darkening Green" is a very creepy and well-done story about adoption--or is it a child sex ring? It's subtler than that description (thank the gods), and very poignant. Good stuff.

P.S. In case anyone's reading this, I want to apologize for the long delay between updates. I was trying to do an entry a day for a while, but then a glitch caused me to lose an entire entry and I was disgruntled by the prospect of redoing it entirely. I'll try to be more regular from now on.