Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Birthday Review: Stories of Pat Cadigan

Yesterday was Pat Cadigan's birthday. She has been a really impressive SF writer for a long time. And we shouldn't forget that early in her career she edited one of the great semi-professional magazines ever. In her honor, then, here's a selection of my Locus reviews of her short fiction, but beginning with a look at an issue of her lovely magazine Shayol (complete with one of her stories.)

Review of Shayol #2, February 1978

(Cover by Robert Haas)
I thought I had better cover a 70s issue of Shayol, if my goal was to cover 70s magazines. This issue is the second. To my taste it isn't quite as nice looking as #7, but still a very professionally produced product, as well done as any SF magazine ever.

The cover is by Robert Haas, called "Beauty", from a series of illustrations of "Beauty and the Beast". There is an interior black and white section with a few more of Haas's "Beauty and the Beast" illos. There is one more special art feature, called "Shayol", by Vikki Marshall -- four full-page drawings based on Cordwainer Smith stories. It wasn't much to my taste. Another illustration-oriented feature is an interview -- a long one -- with Tim Kirk. Interior illustrations for the stories are by Haas, Marshall, Jan Schwab, Clyde Caldwell, and Debora Whitehouse, with George Barr contributing a nice picture of Kirk. And the inside front cover features a Steve Fastner/Randall Larson picture. And there is a full page Kirk cartoon.

Other features include Harlan Ellison's famous open letter to attendees of Iguanacon, the World SF Convention in Arizona for which he was GOH. As a protest against Arizona's failure to ratify the ERA, he was refusing to spend any money in the state, while still honoring his commitment to the Convention. Steve Utley has a poem, "Rex and Regina", about Tyrannosaurs. Phillip Bolick's brief essay "Thick Thews and Busty Babes" (illustrated by Howard Chaykin) criticizes the narrowness of focus and lack of humor in Robert E. Howard and imitators. Book Reviews, by Marty Ketchum, are of The Futurians, The Shining, and Rime Isle. The editorial has one section by Arnie Fenner, much of it given to a rant about the poor printing quality of the first issues, and one section by Pat Cadigan, about Brooke Shields (then 12) and child porn. And there is a Contributors section with brief profiles and a few photos.

The fiction includes three short stories. Harlan Ellison's "Opium" (1400 words) is about a plain woman committing suicide, rescued by the Seven Dwarves who convince her to live in the "real world", i.e. a wet dream. Minor stuff. Terry Matz's "Sport" (5000 words) is not bad. Aliens have taken over Earth and bred humans for their ideas of beauty (i.e. grotesqueness) and lack of intelligence. One alien has bred one mutant for intelligence -- this "sport" tells the story, which concerns a captured wild human who his owner wants to breed to him. (This seems to have been Matz's only publication.) Tom Reamy had just died, and there is an obituary accompanying his story, "Waiting for Billy Star" (2400 words). Reamy lived in Kansas City (I had always thought him a Texan, and he was a native of Texas), and was apparently very close to Cadigan and Fenner (Shayol was based in KC). This story is a sad piece about a woman in love with a no-account rodeo cowboy who dumps her. She waits for him forlornly at a truck stop, then she hears that he has died ... Neat little story.

William Wallace's "The Mare" is a shortish novelette, at about 7700 words. It's horror, and quite well executed but not my sort of thing. The inevitableness of horror I find tiresome -- you know from the start exactly how it will work out. This story is about a young man, living with a woman on his family's haunted farm in East Texas. He remembers his grandfather's horrible death, and he has dreams, and ... well, you know where it's going. And as I said, it's well enough done -- professionally written and all, but what's the POINT? (This is one of only 2 stories Wallace seems to have published, not counting four collaborations with Joseph Pumilia as "M. M. Moamrath".)

Finally, Cadigan contributes a novella, "Death From Exposure" (20,000 words). Nice to see a story so long in a semipro magazine. Though I must say, the story probably should have been cut about in half. It's about two women cops, who are mostly assigned to trivial things like arresting flashers. (SF reading protocols messed me up here -- for a while I thought "flashers" might be referring to some futuristic crime, but no, the story is apparently contemporary in setting, and the "flashers" are just dirty old men in raincoats.) Then a woman is turned to stone. They investigate, at first refusing to believe it's anything but a prank. At long last they are convinced something real is going on, after some more "statues" turn up. And the whole thing is related to flashers. The point of the thing is to reveal the characters of the two partners, and the final revelation is believable and pretty affecting, but the story takes too long getting there. Still, decent work. The story does not seem to have been reprinted, unless fairly recently.

Locus, September 2005

Sci Fiction for August features Pat Cadigan's "Is There Life After Rehab?" -- a pure delight. The opening line is a killer, the real meaning taking some time to come clear. I think the story is best appreciated cold so I'll say nothing in particular – it is indeed about rehab, and about the lure of addiction – a special sort of addiction in this case. I really liked it.

Review of The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction (Locus, April 2008)

Pat Cadigan’s “Jimmy” is a moving story of a girl growing up in the ‘60s, and her friend Jimmy, who is passed around from worthless relative to worthless relative – finally escaping, perhaps, after revealing to her his distressing secret.

Locus, April 2009

Ellen Datlow’s new anthology, Poe, includes stories “inspired” by Edgar Allan Poe … sometimes riffing on stories or poems, other times simply borrowing Poe’s atmospheres and themes, once or twice even featuring Poe as a character. It’s a strong book throughout. I particularly liked Pat Cadigan’s “Truth and Bone”, about an extended family of people with unusual “knowledge”. A different sort of knowledge. Hannah’s mother, for example, knows how to fix things. And her aunt knows when you’re lying. But Hannah realizes early that her talent, her knowledge, will be something a lot scarier and a lot less useful. And the story shows why in believable and wrenching terms.

Review of Is Anybody Out There? (Locus, June 2010)

Pat Cadigan, in “The Taste of Night”, tells of a woman who has become a street person in part because she is convinced that aliens are on the way, and are communicating with her through an extra sense she is developing. It is heartbreaking in its portrayal of her decline, and her husband’s despair – but it might just be hopeful, if we can believe her obsession is real.

Review of Urban Fantasy (Locus, August 2011)

Foreign cities get a look in too -- Pat Cadigan’s “Picking Up the Pieces” is told by one of five sisters, about the youngest (by a wide margin), named Quinn. Quinn falls in love with a German man, but has her heart broken when he leaves her as the Wall is about to come down, in late 1989. Quinn follows him, and her sister follows her, and they learn something striking about her erstwhile boyfriend’s family.

Locus, December 2012

Strahan also gives us a new anthology of stories set in the relatively near future Solar System, Edge of Infinity, which has a plethora of neat pieces. I had two favorites. “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi”, by Pat Cadigan, is set in Jupiter's orbit among the various workers, most of whom have had themselves altered to forms more useful in space. It concerns the legal travails of an unaltered woman who wants to alter herself after an injury – which of course reflects also the legal and political situation of everyone out there.

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