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Friday, June 15, 2007

The Fate of Mice, by Susan Palwick

Susan Palwick (her blog is here) is an excellent writer, and leads an interesting life. I recently read her short story collection, The Fate of Mice (San Francisco: Tachyon, 2007). (See here for my post on her The Necessary Beggar.) All but three stories, original to this volume, were published in normal science fiction/fantasy outlets, such as Asimov's. I'll try to give away as little of the plots as possible. (For a review in one of the standard science fiction outlets, go here.)

One story illustrates the last part of Luke 16 --especially verse 31, which says, "He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'" (ESV) -- perfectly, although there is no scripture in the story. The setting is some undetermined time in the future.

Another is about a fictional communion, and its effect. As it had a religious theme (although the communion isn't a "standard" one) I was pleased that it had been published by a secular publisher. Why not?

The story I liked best, I guess, was "Going After Bobo." I am going to give away some plot here -- I don't think knowing this much would stop anyone from getting as much pleasure as I did about the story. Bobo is a cat who belongs to a teenager who is living with his mother and brother in Nevada. Bobo has disappeared, during a snowstorm, but has a chip embedded in him, so that he can be found. The chip says he is in a mine up on a mountain, and the chip doesn't move over enough time that it seems that Bobo is dead. The story is really about two important themes that are beyond the title, beyond a search for a cat that probably has died. One of them is the boxes we are in, or we put ourselves in -- behavioral boxes, how we act, what we do and don't do. The protagonist realizes that he is in one, and so are others. He steps out once, and this leads to the second theme, which is family reconciliation. This was a moving story, well told. I'm not sure that it's really fantastic at all. Most any of it could have happened, I think, unless those chips can't be tracked by the ordinary pet owner yet.

"Elephant" is only six pages long, but it's powerful. It's about giving birth, and re-starting.

There is an extension of Little Women, and a fantastic version of "Cinderella." Palwick likes to use the stories that should be part of our cultural heritage. She does it again in the title story, which is about a laboratory mouse. It's also about mice in fairy tales, and about experimenting on animals. Fairy tales, Little Women, finding lost cats -- Palwick knows some of our stories. She has written some that should be part of them.

Thanks for reading. Read Palwick.

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Addendum, July 31, 2007. I have now posted on Palwick's Flying in Place.


Susan Palwick said...

Thank you very much, Martin! I'm glad you enjoyed the stories! And I hadn't picked up on (or intended)the scriptural echo in "Beautiful Stuff;" nice catch!

Martin LaBar said...