Sunday, July 1, 2018

Birthday Review: Charles Coleman Finlay's short fiction

Charles Coleman Finlay was born July 1, 1964. So, in honor of his 54th birthday, here's a compilation of a few of my Locus reviews of his short stories. (I've reviewed several more of his stories, but those reviews are less complete.) I will note that I've reprinted his stories three times: "An Eye for an Eye" in Science Fiction: The Best of the Year: 2008 Edition; "Time Bomb Time" in The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy: 2016 Edition; and "The Political Officer" in War & Space: Recent Combat. (All from Prime Books.)

From the June 2004 Locus:

Another welcome new find is Charles Coleman Finlay, and he returns in F&SF with another story of the soldier Vertir and the scribe Kuikin. This time they are charged with going, as the title has it, "After the Gaud Chrysalis", hoping to find it before it emerges as a full-grown, and very dangerous, Gaud. They enlist the reluctant help of Elizeh, a former lover of Kuikin's who has become a nun. Follows a dangerous journey down river to an abandoned city, and an exciting conclusion. A solid piece of adventure fantasy, with a good mixture of wit and action.

From the June 2007 Locus:

Much of the June F&SF is also devoted to crime stories. The best is Charles Coleman Finlay's "An Eye for an Eye". At first blush this is pure "entertainent" -- genre fiction through and through. No deep meaning to be found. After all, as Finlay tells us, the story sprang from the opening sentence, essentially a joke concept: telling of a guy who had an eyeball implanted in his anus. To an SF writer (or reader) that suggests naturally enough a future of radical bodily modification. And that's where Finlay goes, in a fast-moving and sardonic tale of a small-time burglar who is engaged to recover a man's "family jewels" -- literally so, by now, it would seem, and presented to his wife as a token of their love -- until their nasty divorce. The story takes a couple of nice twists from there, and in the end it is at one level another tale of a bad guy making bad. And as such supremely entertaining. But in the background lurks the setting -- perhaps not entirely serious but still a nicely hinted future society, which gives the story -- by golly -- quite a worthwhile SFnal edge.

From the August 2008 Locus:

The cover story for the August F&SF, Charles Coleman Finlay’s "The Political Prisoner", violates Mundane Manifesto guidelines by positing a future interstellar human society tied together (at least to an extent) by FTL travel. Moreover, it is set on a planet not terribly advanced technologically (in some ways) from the 20th Century. There’s no denying such futures aren’t terribly plausible. Instead, the futures of these stories are in essence artificial constructions -- stage sets -- for examining an idea (or simply for telling a story). "The Political Prisoner" is a sequel to "The Political Officer", and like that story it draws to some extent on Soviet history for its plot and situation. The title character in both stories is Maxim Nikomedes, an internal spy for one branch of the authoritarian government of the planet Jesusalem -- that is, a man who spies on other factions of the government. Here he is swept up in political turnover and sent to a work camp. The main SFnal element here is that the work camps, instead of being in Siberia, are instead terraforming camps. But the heart of the story is the depiction of Nikomedes -- not a nice man, but among even worse men, so queasily sympathetic.

From the June 2015 Locus:

Lightspeed for May has a very cleverly executed story by C. C. Finlay, "Time Bomb Time". Hannah's ex-boyfriend Nolon has visited her dorm room, desperate to test his rejected research project: a sort of "time bomb" that will have a, he hopes, spectacular effect on the flow of time. Much of the impact of the story is the design, but the characters and ideas are well-done also.

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