loved to fly but not for the Authority never he never we all said and
they put him on the road grounded him me all of us like the cliptailed
canaries at the Waste Management Center that once I tried to set free.
Now Billy was a passenger and I had a one arm tan and a view of the
left side of his face, good view, pretty face, that square jaw and the
silveryyellow hair folded on his head like bird-wings at rest, the hair
so soft to smear back from heavy cheekbones and the jaw all knotted
muscles and hot mouth. Billy taught me how we all drive in our own way.
And what roads we take. "
Reviewed by Tania Hershman
As with the Logorrhea
my eyes to new definitions of
"genre". When this book was described to me as
"feminist science fiction", I had no idea what this meant. Tales of
independent female aliens or space travellers? What I was not expecting
was seven poignant, sensual and often poetic stories, of
actors, theatre directors, journalists, most of whom inhabit worlds
much like my own but with slight twists, shifts of fundamental rules
deals with familiar themes - gender,
identity, love, passion - in unfamiliar ways, using the imaginative
license granted by "science fiction", which permits a writer a greater
freedom than those "restricted" by the conventions of traditional
These stories are all about some type of "dangerous space". The opening
is set in a world in which musicians are named after their instruments
and they fight for the coveted spot of becoming The Stradivarius (Head
Voilinist) or The Guarnerius (Head Cellist). However, Monitors are forever present to
ensure that only the "correct" music is played and heard, whether in
or being hummed on the street. When Strad finds
herself longing to improvise, she knows her days are numbered. The
relationship between musician and music is beautifully drawn,
and while the ending is unsurprising, Eskridge's language expertly carries the
reader away into Strad's deepest longings.
And Salome Danced continues
with the theme of what an artist is prepared to sacrifice for her art,
but now we are in the theatre and the
surreal slant is the appearance of an actor at auditions who is perfect
for the part of John the Baptist and who then returns the next day as
an actress to try out for Salome.
again," she says.
The voice is the same, she
is the same, and utterly different. She wears the white shirt tucked
into the khaki pants this time, pulled softly across her
This story is the first taste of Eskridge's
playfulness with gender, which reappears in later stories. It is also
the first appearance of the characters Mars and Lucky. Here, Mars is
the theatre director and Lucky is the assistant. Lucky is female, but
Mars' gender is not so easily defined. I came to the conclusion that
Mars is female, but why, I can't exactly say.
City Life adds to
philosophical debate about cause and effect through the tale of a woman
healing abilities who is distressed to discover that her every positive
act is balanced by a destructive one. Mars and Lucky return
in Eye of the Storm,
time as a young boy and a woman in a band of travellers that he meets.
This story was, for me, the least compelling, being firmly set in an
alternative world of sword-fighting that did not draw me in.
Somewhere Down the Diamondback
Road is the shortest story and the one where Eskridge is
most experimental and free with language. As in many of her stories, she invents her
own vocabulary by running words together ("speedmotion" "fuzzysoft")
which creates a sensual layer, rendering her worlds more tangible. This
story, a powerful piece, is also the one where the plot is the least
well-defined, rather it is the stream-of-consciousness of the central
character, Carol Ann, who is being drugged and used by the Authority to
commit acts of violence against her will.
title story, Dangerous
the longest in the book, at 90-odd pages it is almost a novella. Here
again are Mars and Lucky, this time as a renowned sound engineer and
friend/assistant. After I had given in to not knowing Mars' gender, I
found myself transfixed by this story of Mars and the indie rock band
s/he works with; a tale of the relationship
between music and musicians, between musicians and the crowd, music and
passion. If Eskridge is not a musician herself, then she has an uncanny
ability to transport her readers into the musician's mind.
a different note, with the title of the final story, Alien Jane, it is
almost as if Eskridge is teasing her readers about what science fiction
"should be". The first line, "She came in as a thinskin and we started
badly" conjured up scenes from Star Trek, other races with two heads
and tentacles. My heart sank. But no. In fact this is Eskridge at
perhaps her most "traditional", a deeply moving tale of a friendship
between two inmates of a mental institution.
author of a novel, this is Eskridge's first story collection, and it
most ably demonstrates her skills as a writer, her enjoyment and
playfulness with language, and her ability to tell compelling
and imaginative stories peopled with characters that may live in worlds
which are purely fictional but who struggle with everything that it
means to be human.
editor of The Short Review. Tania's first short story collection, The
White Road and Other Stories, will be published by Salt
Publisher: Acqueduct Press
The title story, Dangerous
Space, was named a 2007 Tiptree Award Honour
bio: Kelley Eskridge
is a fiction writer, essayist and screenwriter. Her stories have
appeared in magazines and anthologies in the United States, Europe,
Australia and Japan, won the Astraea Award and been finalists for the
Nebula and James Tiptree awards. Her novel Solitaire is published by
HarperCollins Eos. Solitaire is a New York Times Notable Book and a
Borders Books Original Voices selection, and was a finalist for the
Nebula, Spectrum and Endeavour awards. She is a staff writer for @U2,
the world’s most popular U2 fan website.
with Kelley Eskridge
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