Sunday, April 24, 2016

Whale-Oil, by Sylvia Linsteadt

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(Historical Fantasy) In 1880s San Francisco, little Altair sees that the spirits of whales are trapped in the whale-oil lamps, and he determines to free them. (4,643 words; Time: 15m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

"," by (edited by Scott H. Andrews), appeared in issue 198, published on .

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

Pro: Free them he does, at the cost of triggering the 1880 earthquake.

Con: The story doesn't really gel somehow. A lot of effort goes into making Old Iris an interesting character, but then nothing is done to build a relationship between her and Altair. And it's disappointing that Altair gets what he wanted with so little effort on his part.

The history here is really messed up. Whale oil quit being used because kerosene was so much cheaper--not because they ran out of whales--and this happened in the 1850s and 60s--by 1880 whale oil was already a thing of the past. It seems unlikely that San Francisco ever had very many (if any) public lights lit by whale oil.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 198)
Sylvia Linsteadt Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

1 comment (may contain spoilers):

  1. I enjoyed this one, but I also felt like the solution was a bit too quick and easy.

    More messed up history is the specification of Nov. 12, 1880 for the earthquake. A search for California earthquakes in 1880 turns up one felt on Nov. 4 in San Francisco, but on Nov. 12 the only recorded quakes were much further south in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.

    I wondered if the blue heron footed woman was a Coast Miwok Indian story, but I couldn't find anything.