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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Triangulation: End of the Rainbow

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Triangulation: End of the Rainbow

Edited by Bill Moran

(July 2010)

“The Rainbow Vendor” by David Sklar
“Making Friends” by Kylie Bullivant
“Tourist Trap” by Mark Onspaugh
“A Test of Spirit” by Brenta Blevins
“David is Six” by Amanda C. Davis
“The Stickball Witch” by Peter S. Beagle (reprint)
“Messiah:  The Promised One” by M. Z. Hoosen
“The House at the End of the Rainbow” by Amy Treadwell
“A Womb of My Own” by Tinatsu Wallace
“The Meaning of Yellow” by Cate Gardner
“Talking Blues” by Matthew Johnson
“Spirit House” by Ron Sering
“A Patch of Jewels in the Sky” by Eugie Foster (reprint)
“Haole” by D. K. Thompson
“The World in Rubber, Soft and Malleable” by Aaron Polson (reprint)
“The New Elementals” by Marshall Payne
“Commander Perry’s Mystic Wonders Show” by Jamie Lee Moyer
“In Lixus, Close to Walking” by Erin Hoffman (reprint)
“In Order to Conserve” by Cat Rambo (reprint)

Reviewed by Jo-Anne Odell

“The Rainbow Vendor” by David Sklar tells the tale of a fellow who carries a rainbow in a suitcase.  He tries to sell it to a priest, a scientist, a Viking and a leprechaun, but no one will buy.  Finally, he makes a trade with a child.  

It’s cute.

In “Making Friends” by Kylie Bullivant, Paul visits his mother in the hospital.  She sees spirits, or she did, but she says they aren’t ghosts.  Instead, they’re alternate selves.  It’s one of the alternates who comes home in her place, not the woman Paul recognizes as his mother.  No one believes him.  For comfort, he creates a friend of his own.  As he spends more time imagining Nick, Nick becomes more real.  Finally, Paul has to make a choice.

This is a solid, original story.

“Tourist Trap” by Mark Onspaugh chronicles life for the last man on Earth.  Due to an interstellar fluke, Pete McKinney finds himself alone, the last human, playing tour guide to busloads of aliens.  He demonstrates how to order breakfast and he hits a simulated home run in Yankee stadium.  

He’s been gifted with a collection of massive books.  Pete uses them to create a maze, and it contains a secret.  When intergalactic law enforcement arrives, he has a surprise waiting for them.

The humor works.  

“A Test of Spirit” by Brenta Blevins is based on Hawaiian legend.  Kahala the rainbow maiden, daughter of the mountain god, wishes to revoke her arranged betrothal to Ka-uhi, the chief of Waikiki.  She wants to marry her true love, Mahana, the chief of Kamoiliili.  When Ka-uhi finds out she plans to leave him, he murders her, not once, but many times.  Mahana finds her and takes her back to his village, where he enlists the help of others to revive her.  Together, they concoct a plan to rid them of fear over Ka-uhi’s revenge.  

This is a simple folk tale.  Due to the density of its prose and the similarity of the names, it’s a tougher read than it should be.

In “David is Six” by Amanda C. Davis, David wants very much to be seven.  He splashes through a stream, where he sees a toad sitting on a log, under a rainbow.  He knows it’s a special, talking toad, but he’s surprised when the toad offers to grant him a wish.  Though David is clever, so is the toad.  

This is the traditional legend of Faerie, pared to its simplest form.  

“The Stickball Witch” by Peter S. Beagle is about an eleven-year-old boy in the nineteen-fifties, playing stickball in the streets of New York.  Every street has its witch.  On his, it’s Mrs. Poliokov.  Balls that drop into her yard go un-retrieved.  In retribution, other, less appealing things are tossed over her fence by night.  Finally, our hero, on a dare, enters her yard.  When she makes an appearance, she gives him and his friends the stickball game of their lives.  

It’s a fun, coming-of-age story.  The plot is slow in developing, but it’s worth the wait.

In “Messiah:  The Promised One” by M. Z. Hoosen, a doctor performs a Caesarian section on a pregnant zombie.  

This story uses gore to plaster over a weak plot.  

“The House at the End of the Rainbow” by Amy Treadwell tells of Agnes, an old woman living at the end of a rainbow, and Valerie, a young girl who’s lost her cat.  For Agnes, her biggest challenges are to maintain the safety of her goats and chickens, and to ensure she has enough to eat.  When Valerie finds her way to Agnes, it’s a shock to both of them.  Agnes wants to get Valerie home.  She just doesn’t know how.  

It’s another slow starter, taking more than half its length in set up.  Agnes is its saving grace.  She’s an interesting character, with a secret.

“A Womb of My Own” by Tinatsu Wallace is about a gay couple.  Biology has advanced to the point where doctors can create an artificial womb, allowing a man to carry a child.  It’s a risky procedure, painful, with little guarantee of success.  Jonah’s partner, Don, is certain which of them should carry the baby.  He has a dozen reasons why it shouldn’t be him.  Jonah has reservations, but he gives in.  

Despite their lifestyle, Don plays a very traditional male role.  As Jonah moves into uncharted territory, it becomes obvious he does so alone.  He’s no longer one of the guys.  Don belittles Jonah in small ways, tearing at his self-esteem.  

Wallace blurs gender boundaries with finesse.  I found it easy to identify with the subtle interplay of her characters, the bids for power, and the ways in which lovers hurt one another.  Though the story is emotion-packed, it never becomes maudlin.

“The Meaning of Yellow” by Cate Gardner describes a world in which color is banned, but in which it behaves in a very peculiar way.  Cartoon characters escape their celluloid bounds.  They spread their color over people and things.  It’s a death sentence.  

When Maxine sneaks into the movie house safe, she unleashes a torrent, and attracts the notice of the authorities.  She must decide between safety and beauty.

The story is well written, but the concept didn’t work for me.  I found it too silly to be dramatic and too bleak to be funny.  I just couldn’t relate.

In “Talking Blues” by Matthew Johnson, things have gone to Hell.  All the jobs have, at least.  It hasn’t done wonders for the economy.  Will, a musician, lives in his microvan and struggles to make ends meet.  When he meets Margaret, things look up for him.  His audiences get bigger and he gains confidence.  

Margaret isn’t forthcoming about her past, and Will doesn’t ask.  When the man in black appears, Margaret finally opens up.  She’s escaped Hell, but she’s going back.  Will goes after her.  Throughout his search, his music keeps up his spirits and gives him the strength to carry on.  When he finds Margaret, it enables her, too, to break free.  They can escape.  But they can’t look back.

It’s the underlying social commentary, presented tongue-in-cheek, that gives this tale depth.

“Spirit House” by Ron Sering tells of Henry, newly divorced and convinced to travel to Thailand by Blair Stohler, a friend from work.  The excuse is business, but Stohler is an old hand at finding shady recreation in such trips.  He meets a mysterious contact and leads Henry to an establishment where the prostitutes expect abuse at the hands of their clients.  It’s too much for Henry.  He runs, escaping into a cluster of small shrines, called spirit houses.  Their caretaker offers him a gift, a pendant of Quanyin, the spirit of compassion.  

Henry’s pursuers, and Stohler, catch him.  They take him to a party.  Thanks to the pendant, he’s not deceived.  The place is full of demons, not beautiful women.  Armed with Quanyin and his own basic decency, Henry gains the tools to make a difference in his future.

This is a story with great promise and lots to offer, but one that doesn’t deliver all it could.  The characters are flat, lacking the subtlety that would have given it real power.  

“A Patch of Jewels in the Sky” by Eugie Foster is another folk tale.  Once again, gods are behaving badly.  When they fight, a volcano erupts, burning a hole in the sky.  Monsters, a black dragon and a crimson tortoise, enter the world.  They devour people and create more destruction.  It falls to gentle Nu Wa to find a way to repair the breach.

The story is clear, simple and predictable.

In “Haole” by D. K. Thompson, it’s a post-apocalyptic world.  The seas have turned red, the world is full of man-eaters, and Hawaii is on its own.  Fragments of civilization are still available in Maui, so it’s to there Tom and others turn for help.  

When their boat docks, they’re attacked by religious zealots.  The leader learns of Tom’s status as a gay man.  Tom is tortured in an attempt to force him to recant.  Though he had been an actor, and never a real cop, he has some skills that surprise his captors.

The setting is creative and the imagery unique, with a solid plot.  It could be developed into a longer tale to answer more of the questions it raises.

“The World in Rubber, Soft and Malleable” by Aaron Polson tells of a village disappearing, one person at a time.  Where they’ve gone isn’t clear, except they’ve left through mysterious doors that appear in their basements.  Andy’s mother was the first to go, a decade earlier.  Andy takes the other disappearances in stride, consuming his time by spray-painting graffiti with his closest friend, Jarrod.  When Jarrod leaves, followed by Andy’s father, Andy is left in an empty town.  He finds he has a choice to make.

It’s quite readable, though the ending feels flat.  

“The New Elementals” by Marshall Payne is about Jamie, a low atmosphere air elemental who falls for Debi, a high stratosphere girl.  He proclaims his love, and hopes to interest her.  She looks down and notices the air version of the ghetto boy.  

It’s another short, cute tale.

In “Commander Perry’s Mystic Wonders Show” by Jamie Lee Moyer, Jodi Marie has her hands full and her future to decide.  She could abandon the family business and go off to school, like her older sister.  She could embrace it, like her brother.  Her life isn ‘t an easy one.  It’s consumed by the need to look after the unique creatures in their show, and her little sister, Missy.  

Missy’s independent nature and unusual talents are a source of consternation.  So is her parentage.  She’s not their father’s child, and that creates tension.  More is added by a long-standing squabble with Garnet Fletcher, a neighbor.  Garnet wants their land and threatens their livelihood.

When Garnet accuses their troll of eating her dog, it’s up to Jodi to find a solution.  She enlists Missy’s unique talents to expose the lie.

This story is a delight.

“In Lixus, Close to Walking” by Erin Hoffman is about Kierkegaard, an experimental processor, and his struggle for cognition.  It’s expressed in terms of his relation to processor insects.  He works to understand his own impulses and his desire for death.  As he explores inside himself, he has conversations with the professor, his maker, and he learns of the history of his kind.  With that, he gains an understanding of the underpinnings of life.

This story attempts to marry stream of consciousness to machine synapse imagery.  It succeeds, but the result isn’t one I found captivating.

“In Order to Conserve” by Cat Rambo has a theme similar to “The Meaning of Yellow.”  This time, the disappearance of the color is a natural phenomenon.  Initially, people are concerned, and try to conserve.  As the problem worsens, society’s attitude changes.

This tale remains at a high, impersonal level.  

Overall, I think Triangulation:  End of the Rainbow is one of the better collections available.  There are some wonderful stories contained within it, and most are higher than average quality.