Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Hard Woman, by Ian McDowell

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(Western SF) A French woman in the 1880s old West can become invulnerable, at some cost, and makes a living as a stage performer--until something goes wrong in Tombstone. (15,577 words; Time: 51m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Recommended
Recommended By: SFRevu:4

"The Hard Woman," by (edited by Sheila Williams), appeared in issue 10-11|15, published on by .

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

Pro: We like the fact that her invulnerability has limits. Her relationship with Jacob Bouvier is developed well, so her response is reasonable. We especially like the fact that she earns her victory at the end. Separately, the traditional characters in Tombstone are portrayed well and enjoyably.

Con: There's something of a lack of suspense. Although her ability has limits, she's so nearly invincible that we are never concerned for her. This sucks some of the energy out of her victory.

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7 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. Thank you for the review. Authors should never respond to critics with anything but that (we've all seen what hoopleheads they can sound like if they do otherwise), but I hope I don't come across as tetchy or thin-skinned when I make a mild factual correction.

    Johnny Behan, the real sheriff of Tombstone at the time, is hardly in my story. Cecile's relationship is with the fictional Jacob Bouvier.

    1. Fixed! Thanks for the correction. And thanks for writing the story--it was a fun read.

  2. Thank you again, and I'm glad the correction didn't sound peevish, as it wasn't meant as such. The real Johnny Behan was a political enemies of the Earps and sided with the Cow-Boys against them. This was probably partilally because Wyatt ended up with Behan's glamorous mistress, but also because Behan was a Dixiecrat whose office represented state power, whereas the Earps were Republicans who fought for the Union and represented the federal government. But as I said, he's barely in my story (Wyatt doesn't figure much in it, either, although John Henry Holliday will have larger role in the next one.)

  3. It is too bad the French is so poor. It destroy much of the fun.

    Mr. McDowell should have a French friend to check that for him before getting that in a book...

    1. I noticed that too, but I decided not to mention it, since I suspect 99% of the readers wouldn't care. Also, I read French a lot better than I write or speak it, so I thought I might be wrong somehow.

      Here are some I spotted:

      "Quell dommage" should be "quel."

      "très charmant" should be "charmante" (the speaker is female)

      "tête du veau" should be "de" since we're not talking about a particular animal.

      "Excusez-moi pendant que je inclinaison" is really bad. Perhaps "Excusez-moi pendant que je me repose" would be better? Or "Laissez-mois me reposer."

    2. Merci. I actually DID have a French friend do the last for me, so I went by what she said, although I may have well have garbled it (or, to weasel even further, it may been messed up in the copy-editing -- I only recently realized that, years and years ago, an anthology editor or copy-editor turned my reference to Vlad the Impaler's faith from Orthodox to Catholic),

      The first two are my goofs, certainly, but ""tête du veau" is straight from an actual 1880s Tombstone restaurant menu. While cursory googling finds the majority of contemporary restaurant menus spelling it with "de", a significant minority, some of them actually in France, spell it with "du," as did the credits on the episode of HANNIBAL that featured the dish.

    3. First, I would like to precise that I enjoyed the story and was surprised and pleased to find some French words in it.

      My original comments was motivated by the fact that this story is intended to be published as the chapter of book and that comments might actually be of some use.

      I would add to this list
      "orphelin étrange" which should be "étrange orphelin"
      "imbecile" which could be "imbécile"
      "bon jour" -> "bonjour"

      For the "tete du veau", I understand the explanation but if you wish to please the French palate "de" would sound nicer.

      I am astonished and marvelled to have this discussion. America is a world of wonder but I hope this is not too cliché.