THE EDITOR'S WORD by Mike Resnick
Welcome to the thirty-third issue of Galaxy’s Edge.
Got some fine new and newer writers to introduce to you, including Deborah L. Davitt, D.A. Xiaolin Spires, Gerri Leen, George Nikolopoulos, Floris M. Kleijne, Larry Hodges, R.K. Nickel, Rebecca Birch, and Ralph Roberts.
We also welcome back old superstar friends Robert Silverberg, Nancy Kress, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Orson Scott Card.
Our regular features all return: Bill Fawcett and Jody Lynn Nye’s book recommendations, Gregory Benford’s science column, Robert J. Sawyer on literary matters, and the Joy Ward interview, this time with David Drake. Finally, this issue concludes our serialization of Joan Slonczewski’s Daughter of Elysium.
In other words, a typical issue. Hope you enjoy it.
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They say there’s nothing new under the sun. Clearly they haven’t read the late George Effinger, my friend and one-time collaborator.
There is a wonderful exchange in one of my favorite films, They Might Be Giants, between George C. Scott, who thinks he is Sherlock Holmes, and a Mr. Bagg, whom Scott has just met:
MR. BAGG: I thought you were dead.
“HOLMES”: The Falls at Reichenbach. I know. I came back in the sequel.
We used to talk about character actors coming back in the sequels—they’d die in one B movie and there they’d be, back again, two months later—but the above scene was the first time anyone ever actually gave voice to the notion for public consumption. And then came Sandor Courane.
When I was a kid and we had the first television set on our block, back in the late 1940s, my friends and I used to gather around the tube after school and watch the endless Tom Mix serials. At the end of one episode we’d see him and Tony (his horse, for the uninitiated) fall over the side of a mountain and plunge to their deaths, or get run over by a train. Then we’d wait breathlessly for a few days until the next episode, which always started a minute before the last one ended, and we would see that our eyes had betrayed us, that we only thought we’d seen Tom and Tony fall to their doom, that Tom had somehow dived to safety in the last nanosecond.
There’s none of that sleight of hand for Sandor Courane, no sir. When he dies, he dies, and there’s no two ways about it. He stops functioning. He stops breathing. He enters what you might call a long-term open-ended state of non-life.
But he still comes back in the sequel.
Most people don’t have any trouble coping with reality. Every now and then you get someone like Philip K. Dick who questions it just about every time out of the box. But no one ever played as many tongue-in-cheek games with it as George Alec Effinger, the sly wit who took such pleasure in constantly killing Courane and bringing him back.
Take, for example, The Wolves of Memory and “Fatal Disk Error.” In the former, TECT runs the universe and eventually kills Courane. But in the sequel, “Fatal Disk Error,” Courane kills TECT, and then we find out that it was really George Alec Effinger who created (and destroyed) them both. And since George was never content merely to put in one or two unique twists when he could come up with more, we also learn that the story was rejected by an editor who was a little too based in reality, so George resurrects TECT just to kill it again.
Or consider “In the Wings.” Doubtless at one time or another you’ve seen or read Luigi Pirandello’s classic play, Six Characters in Search of an Author. This story might just as easily be titled: “Effinger’s Stock Characters in Search of a Plot.” The entire story takes place in the wings (or perhaps the locker room) of Effinger’s mind, where Courane and other regular Effinger characters are waiting impatiently for George’s oversexed muse to get him to write Chapter 1 so they can go to work. And, of course, Courane is killed again. At least once. (Not to worry. It is impossible to let the cat out of the bag when discussing an Effinger story. If you like the image of cats, it’s a hell of a lot more like herding them. Trust me on this.)
Okay (I hear you say), now I know what a Sandor Courane story is: things happen and he dies.
Okay, I answer. Go read “The Wicked Old Witch” and then tell me what a Sandor Courane story is about. This one may be one of the least likely love stories you’ll ever read. (Or it may not be a love story at all. George was like that.) Poor Courane has reality yanked from under him yet again in “From the Desk of,” in which he’s a science fiction writer. (George loved to write about science fiction writers. Nothing ever went smoothly for them.) He’s a science fiction editor in “The Thing from the Slush,” a story I am convinced George wrote after reading one too many Adam-and-Eve endings in some magazine’s slush pile.
I won’t tell you a thing about “Posterity,” except that it ends with a question no one else had ever thought of asking, but a legitimate, even an important, question nonetheless, one that most writers I know would have a difficult time answering. (George could be so amusing that sometimes people didn’t recognize the fact that he asked important questions. Lots of ’em.)
Anyway, as brilliant as his Marid Audran stories were, as wildly funny as his Maureen Birnbaum stories were, nothing was as off-the-wall and out-of-left-field as George’s Sandor Courane stories. Do yourself a favor and hunt some of them down. Or (as George might argue, just for the hell of it) up.