Chizine, #28, April-June 2006

Wednesday, 19 April 2006 14:08 Michael Fay
Print
"Dinosaurs" by Brendan Detzner
"Bubbling Under" by Glen Flower
"Girl with the Lute" by Samantha Henderson
"Big Yellow Taxi" by Philip Tinkler

Leading off the April-June 2006 issue of Chizine is “Dinosaurs” by Brendan Detzner. This story asks the question: “What will the Devil do with the world after the Rapture?”  A man living along in the remains of Chicago plays tennis regularly with the Devil; he even beats her once in a while. He meets a woman, Danielle, who also talks to the Devil while wandering around Chicago.  Inevitably, everything is, in one way or another, arranged by the Devil.

“Dinosaurs” appealed to my sense of humor; I interpreted it as a slipstream satire on the apocalyptic finale worldview, reminiscent of the end of Robert A. Heinlein’s Job: A Comedy of Justice. The gods are jerks, and our protagonist (also a bit of a jerk) is pelted with the ping pong balls of fate and must struggle through.  With slipstream tales, any message must be based on the reader’s own context, and as such, I didn't find "Dinosaurs" to be particularly deep. Still, it is a humorous and entertaining read.

“Bubbling Under” is Glen Flower’s tale of a boy raised to the IRA ideal. Punctuated by flashbacks from his youth—his father was an IRA bomb maker, his mother retiring and tired, and he was a boy with his father’s shadow glaring over his shoulder—Francis Johnstone carries a case filled with explosives into a crowded London bar, for a cause he doesn’t really believe in.  This is a dark rumination on a historically troubling state of mind. Why do the children of terrorists get drawn into terrorism? Do they believe in the cause, or are they simply trying to please a father, a mother, an authority figure? We learn what the answer is for Francis, but don’t really learn any other answers.

“Bubbling Under” is a better story upon rereading. His father’s effect on Francis is glaring and has more subtle undertones than a single reading reveals. However, I wished Flower had spent more time examining the effect, or lack thereof, that Francis’s mother had.

“Girl with the Lute” by Samantha Henderson is by far my favorite story of this issue. McAuiffe travels through time to snatch children who won’t be missed to take to a child-hungry future for adoption. Only he doesn’t just take the children, the victims of a plague who will now be saved by future medicine, he picks up ephemera: scraps of paper, watches stolen from drunkards, and an obsession.  McAuiffe becomes consumed by his quest to find the model for a sketch, a woman from the distant past.  He searches for her when he travels back in time, and he begins to travel more frequently, until, at last, his partner decides it’s time to stop.

“Girl with the Lute” is a compelling story, as characters with obsessions often make for compelling characters. To what lengths will they go to obtain the object of their obsession? That question is, of course, key, and the answer is what makes this story worth reading.

Philip Tinkler’s “Big Yellow Taxi” is a somewhat long flash piece. Tom takes a cab through a world he fully inhabits but fails to see his connection to. This story is filled with imagery that suggests repressed, fetishist sexuality—from the chubby checker cab, decorated with genitalia clipped from various centerfolds, to the subtle and not so subtle masturbation references. Yet, Tom is unable to see how his fixation upon a woman he doesn’t know, but still goes to sit and wait for at the airport, fits into this world of hidden fantasy.  

The focus of “Big Yellow Taxi” is the tension built by the contrast of Tom’s obliviousness to the overtness of the taxi and driver. Whereas the driver has found release in his cab-as-outlet, Tom has pent up his desires and is unable to seize the chance to find release.