Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Astrakhan, the Homburg, and the Red Red Coal, by Chaz Brenchley

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(Martian Steampunk) A group of Englishmen sharing an evening in a pub near a canal on "Old Mars" meet a stranger who knows their secret and makes them an offer. (7,534 words; Time: 25m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Evocative and Thought-Provoking
Recommended By: GDozois:5 RHorton:5 LTilton

"," by (edited by John Joseph Adams), appeared in issue 61, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Very nice development of the "cold Martian winter night" setting. The realization that this is a group of gay men develops gradually. The aliens--not even real Martians--are described in good detail. The "mind meld" is also well-described.

The ending is rather enigmatic, and there are many possible ways to interpret it. The simplest is that instead of an imago driving a man insane, this time a group of men drove an imago insane. Another would be that they conveyed their self-hated so strongly that the imago was compelled to try to destroy them. Or that it found the experience so unpleasant that it came to destroy the machine that made the link possible. More abstract, one could read the whole thing as a metaphor for gay people coming out of the closet and leaving their self-hating other selves behind.

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Chaz Brenchley Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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1 comment (may contain spoilers):

  1. Story is bloody amusing and very deft handling of the concept of communicating with aliens. The use of the steampunk genre and gay conceit fits perfectly and made me titter, having attended a rather debauched English public school for a while although not gay. An American may miss the satire.