Friday, March 8, 2019

Playscape, by Diana Peterfreund

Not Rated No Speculative Element

(Mainstream) A woman’s child disappears from a playground, and her neighbors wonder what really happened. (3,562 words; Time: 11m)

Recommended By: πŸ‘STomaino+1 (Q&A)

"Playscape," by (edited by C.C. Finlay), appeared in issue 03-04|19, published on by .

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

Review: 2019.147 (A Word for Authors)

Other than the woman’s briefly imagining a hole in the slide, there’s no speculative content at all.

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2 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. A prominent feature of this issue is its fuzzy genre. It's interesting that you deem this and "Cain" to have no speculative element but grant one to "Cascadia" and "alto sax." The "alien" sax has no reason to be an alien and no effect that a hallucination couldn't have (and it being that would make more sense). Flipside, you can easily rationalize the portal/wormhole in this away but it's easy (in SF/F terms) to grant that the first kid got swallowed up by one, the second kid saw it (a big deal is made about his sudden inexplicable fear of the slide) and then the mother confirmed it. My question wasn't whether it was supposed to be mainstream or speculative, but whether the speculation was supposed to be fantasy or SF. Also, there are not only references to alchemy in "Cain" but elements of posthumous fantasy (though I agree that this is all literary and doesn't have to be considered actual fantasy). And then there's nothing in Cascadia (other than the premise of "Cascadia" itself, which doesn't actually accomplish anything in the story) that we can say for sure isn't going on in some woods right now. There's certainly no fantasy and not even any serious extrapolation into a Future.

    1. I try to draw a line at things where the speculative element is a) vague and b) disposable.

      In this story, there's nothing speculative at all until the last paragraph or two. It's as though it were originally a mainstream story that didn't sell and then someone told the author that if you just put a little speculative element in it, SF/F magazines will take it. If the child-eating-slide took her child and the story ended with her going after him, I'd feel differently.

      "The Mark of Cain" is metafiction: the author is talking to his character. I'm not willing to call that speculative. Not unless it has some effect outside the works. (E.g. if the character in the author's book starts telling him where to find buried treasure.)

      "The Free Orcs of Cascadia" I see your point that if you remove the setting, it could be a mostly mainstream story. However, setting is a big deal, and I'll count a story as SF/F if it's got a speculative setting, even if it doesn't do a lot with it.

      As for "miscellaneous notes from the time an alien came to band camp disguised as my alto sax," it's a non-serious bit of flash fiction, so it never even occurred to me to imagine the narrator might be insane. Alien visitors, however comical, certainly qualify as genre.

      In general, I try not to mark stories as mainstream if I can find a plausible excuse not to. I'm most allergic to ones where I suspect the speculative element was clumsily pasted on after the fact.

      Hope that makes some sense. As I'm sure you'd discovered, reviewing is often a matter of rationalizing gut decisions after the fact. :-)