Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Birthday Review: Stories of Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Today is Kristine Kathryn Rusch's birthday. She's been producing excellent SF -- and mysteries -- for some three decades. Here's a selection of my reviews of her short work in Locus.

Locus, March 2003

Kristine Kathryn Rusch's new story (Asimov's, April) also plays off 9/11, though in the end that's not its focus. The title, "June Sixteenth at Anna's", refers to a work of art: a recording, made from the future, of conversations at a restaurant in Manhattan, on June 16, 2001. Max's wife was one of the subjects of this recording. She has recently died, and Max reminisces about her modest fame, and then "watches" the time recording of her afternoon at Anna's. The modest Sfnal content serves to illuminate a very nicely done, very quiet story of an old man, love, and memory.

Locus, January 2004

Sci Fiction for December features a Lucius Shepard novella plus a Christmas novelette from Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Rusch's "Nutball Season" is a pleasant sentimental seasonal story, about a divorced policeman who finds himself guarding a single mother who has threatened to shoot Santa Claus if he comes to her house. I think any reader can see where this story is going, but Rusch gets us to the end nicely.

Locus, September 2004

Kristine Kathryn Rusch's "Collateral Damage" is set in a future where children are required to take classes using time viewer technology to study war – in hopes that direct experience of its horrors will prevent future wars. A veteran teacher is charged with "inappropriate touching" of a four-year-old girl. The coy way these charges are presented and eventually explained weakens an otherwise thought-provoking piece.

Locus, January 2006

As with many magazines, Sci Fiction often featured Christmas-themed stories in December, and so we see Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s “Boz”, a sweet if slight piece about a solitary man minding the store, so to speak, on a generation starship, and his reaction to a Christmas present from the crew.

Locus, September 2009

“Broken Windchimes” (Asimov's, September) is about a male soprano who has been raised from early childhood to be a perfect singer for the alien Pané. It seems the Pané love human song, but a very limited version of it, and they have no tolerance whatsoever for imperfection. The main character happens to hear a recording of Louis Armstrong, and shortly thereafter, either corrupted by Armstrong’s highly imperfect voice, or corrupted by the inevitable effects of age, misses a note, which implausibly (to me) ends his career forever. He escapes to a space station with a broader cultural base than he has heretofore known, and, of course, discovers the blues. And a different style of performing … He also ends up learning some surprising secrets about the way children are recruited to be trained as Pané singers. The problem I had with the story, as I’ve suggested, is that at times I simply didn’t believe things. I didn’t believe the Pané fanaticism about perfect soulless singing. I didn’t believe the economic background hinted at. I was unconvinced by the narrator’s convenient enthrallment with the blues. But still – the manipulation works. I was moved by the story, it did affect me. It’s on the ragged edge – I could have just dismissed it in frustration, but Rusch held it together enough that, in the end, I liked it.

Locus, January 2010

Kristine Kathryn Rusch is above all a committed storyteller, and “The Possession of Paavo Deshin” (Analog, January/Febuary) is an absorbing story set in her Retrieval Artist future. Paavo is a young boy on the Moon, afraid of the “ghosts” he sees on occasion – which turn out to be links to his parents who abandoned him when they had to “disappear”. His loyalty is to his adopted parents – even if his father may be a criminal. And that loyalty will be tested. Nothing here is SFnally new enough to fascinate me, but the basic story is quite involving.

Locus, November 2010

The Asimov’s October-November double issue also features a couple of strong novellas. I have not previously liked Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Asimov’s stories that become her 2009 novel Diving into the Wreck, but they have been popular. So I was surprised to quite enjoy “Becoming One With the Ghosts”, set in the same universe, and featuring the main character of the novel, Boss, as an important secondary character. The main character here is Coop, Captain of the warship Ivoire, which has retreated to Sector Base V after a defeat at the hands of the enemy Quurzod. But Sector Base V seems impossibly altered. And soon they encounter strangers, who seem as surprised by the Ivoire’s presence as the Ivoire’s crew are surprised by the changes at the Base. What’s going on is easy enough to guess, but Rusch unspools it effectively -- I enjoyed, and I was tempted to go right off and read the novel.

Locus, February 2013

From the January Lightspeed ... Kristine Kathryn Rusch's “Purity Test” is a somewhat predictable but still affecting tale of a woman whose cruel father, convinced his wife had betrayed him, insists on tests of virginity for his son's prospective brides – and in the end his daughter (the narrator) must face such a test herself, but not before she learns to doubt its value.

Locus, November 2018

One more story this month is of interest to SF readers, especially those connected to fandom, though it’s not SF. “Unity Con” is the latest of Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s stories for Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine about Spade, a Microsoft millionaire and a Secret Master of Fandom who helps conventions with financial issues, and Paladin, a young woman who investigates knottier problems, sometimes with Spade’s help. This time Paladin is at Unity Con, a convention intended to promote unity between the factions of fandom that were so noticeably divided by the Sad Puppy fiasco. There’s a dead body – of a fan and writer apparently modeled to an extent on Vox Day, and it looks like murder. Spade wants nothing to do with this mess, but is inveigled into helping, especially when it appears something funny has happened with the con’s finances. The story itself is pretty minor, the solution to the crimes a bit trivial and a bit implausible, but Rusch’s real goal here is to promote her vision of a way forward for fandom.

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