Lenox Avenue, #8, Sept/Oct 2005

Sunday, 11 September 2005 21:15 Scott M. Sandridge
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“The Epistemology of Bread” by Lawrence M. Schoen
“Matilda” by Jon Hansen
“The Problem of Friction" by David Walton
“They’re not Dead until They Stop Talking” by Kate Harrad
“Dutch Boy Roller Coaster Blue 14-F5” by Jay Lake and Jenn Reese

This issue of Lenox Avenue promises to be weird. The cover features artwork by Lawrence Northey that looks like something out of the movie Robots (and I highly recommend viewing his “Robots!” art gallery in this issue) and has an enlightening quote from John A. Wheeler. Adrienne Allman is Managing Editor of a talented but quirky team (Don’t believe me? Check out their About Us page). You can blame M. Thomas for the Mechanical Oddities theme in this issue, and as Wade White’s editorial says, “If your mind wasn’t warped before coming here, we trust it will be sufficiently so by the time you leave.”

But do they deliver on the weirdness they promise us? Let’s find out:

In “The Epistemology of Bread” by Lawrence M. Schoen, Crel is a four-slicer toaster, and she (yes, she) is “1600 watts feminine.” But appliances only define gender by language use. She has no sense of time, she only waits until there’s bread, and then she makes it into toast while gaining brief philosophical insights to the nature of the knowledge of bread before she burns it to death.

The story is written in a conversational style that felt a little patronizing after a while. Entertaining in its oddity, but its lack of a plot left me wondering why I should care about what a toaster thinks. However, others might be drawn to such a “slice-of-life” (pun intended) vignette.

“Matilda” by Jon Hansen is about a printer that always prided herself in getting the job done until one day she had a glitch. I found its theme of purpose and the confusion caused by faulty functions touching. The pacing was good, and the writing crisp and clear throughout most of it. Best of all, unlike the last story, this one had a plot—a story worth reading.

David Walton spins a humorous tale with “The Problem of Friction.” Mr. Middleton is frustrated over his wife’s ability to create card castles when he can’t even build a simple house of cards, so he invents the frictiophage: a nanomachine that eliminates friction. This “mad scientist” tale gives the typical warning against messing with the laws of nature, and does so in a way that will at least leave a smile on your face, if not rolling on the floor in a laughter-fest that threatens to burst your sides out. Not the most “original” story, but “originality” is often overestimated.

What do you get when a woman’s electric toothbrush, oven, toaster (what is it with toasters anyway?), and CD player are all haunted by her dead family members? You get a ghost story that makes your eyes cross over called “They’re not Dead until They Stop Talking” by Kate Harrad. And I mean cross over in that “oh my god this is whacked out hysterical” way. Done in first person, Harrad keeps the story flowing with a fast, easy pace. While conversations are hinted at, there is no actual dialogue between characters which detracts from the enjoyment of the story but not by much. Overall, a worthy read with a clever plot twist.

With a title you’d expect on the cover of a manga, “Dutch Boy Roller Coaster Blue 14-F5” by Jay Lake and Jenn Reese meets that expectation. Set in a Post-Rapture apocalyptic near-future, our protagonist works as a gun runner for angels. After an encounter with Christian Identity fanatics that results in the death of an angel, he takes shelter in an abandoned, half-destroyed motel. Then the phone in his room rings, and everything proceeds to get weirder in that manga-style way. The story suffered a little from “Flashback Syndrome” and too much gratuitous language that served no purpose other than to make the character appear “more realistic.” A pity since the story as a whole had great potential with its theme of individual choice.