Sunday, February 13, 2011

Short Story Sunday - Feb.. 13, 2011

 With Valentine's Day being tomorrow, I thought I would devote today's short story reviews to ones dealing with love.

The two stories I am reviewing today are similar in many ways.  The authors are experts when it comes to crafting stories about love, loss, loneliness, death, and the thin line between science and fantasy.  Roger Zelazny and George R. R. Martin have written some of my all time favorite stories.  The two I am reviewing today are good examples of why I like both authors.

1.  "The Man Who Loved the Faoli" by Roger Zelazny
First Printing:  Galaxy, June 1967

It is the story of John Auden and the Faioli, and no one knows it better than I. Listen -- 

It happened on that evening, as he strolled (for there was no reason not to stroll) in his favorite places in the whole world, that he saw the Faioli near the Canyon of the Dead, seated on a rock, her wings of light flickering, flickering, flickering and then gone, until it appeared that a human girl was sitting there, dressed all in white and weeping, with long black tresses coiled about her waist. 

He approached her through the terrible light from the dying, half-dead sun, in which human eyes could not distinguish distances nor grasp perspectives properly (though his could), and he lay his right hand upon her shoulder and spoke a word of greeting and of comfort. 

It was as if he did not exist, however. She continued to weep, streaking with silver her cheeks the color of snow or a bone. Her almond eyes looked forward as though they saw through him, and her long fingernails dug into the flesh of her palms, though no blood was drawn. 

Then he knew that it was true, the things that are said of the Faioli -- that they see only the living and never the dead, and that they are formed into the loveliest women in the entire universe. Being dead himself, John Auden debated the consequences of becoming a living man once again, for a time. 

The Faioli were known to come to a man the month before his death -- those rare men who still died -- and to live with such a man for that final month of his existence, rendering to him every pleasure that it is possible for a human being to know, so that on the day when the kiss of death is delivered, which sucks the remaining life from his body, that man accepts it -- no, seeks it! -- with desire and with grace. For such is the power of the Faioli among all creatures that there is nothing more to be desired after such knowledge.

Once again, Zelazny proves to be a master story teller.  "The Man Who Loved the Faoli" is one of many examples why Galaxy was one of my favorite magazines.  The same issue also had stories by Poul Anderson, R. A. Lafferty, and Larry Niven.

Zelazny gives an answer to the question of what would a man give up for love and knowledge.  It seems like they would have different answers but read this story before you answer.

Now for another look at a similar theme...

2.  "The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr" by George R. R. Martin
First Printing:  Fantastic, May 1976

 There is a girl who goes between worlds.

She is grey-eyed and pale of skin, or so the story goes, and her hair is a coal-black waterfall with half-seen hints of red.  She wears about her brow a circlet of burnished metal, a dark crown that holds her hair in place and sometimes puts shadows in her eyes.  Her name is Sharra:  she knows the gates.  

The beginning of her story is lost to us, with the memory of the world from which she sprang.  The end?  The end is not yet, and when it comes we shall not know it.

We have only the middle, or rather a piece of that middle, the smallest part of the legend, a mere fragment of the quest.  A small tale within the greater, of one world where Sharra paused, and of the lonely singer Laren Dorr and how they briefly touched.

Another classic Martin short story.  A guardian awaits Sharra at each of the worlds she travels to.  At each one they try to keep her from moving on.  This stop along the way is different in that she finds the minstrel-Laren Dorr.  This short story tells about their time together.

Once again, Martin deals with loneliness and loss set against the background of a castle.  Martin loves writing about ancient places.  Fortunately he is a master at creating mood and establishing an atmosphere with his style of writing.  

If you have not read this story, what are you waiting for?  Rush out and buy it.

Both stories get a high recommendation.


adamosf said...

I have that issue of GALAXY, and the Martin story in one of his collections, and I agree with you at how wonderful they are. Perhaps I should go back and reread some of those books (although awhile ago I reread Zelazny's FOUR FOR TOMORROW, a truly outstanding collection of his early longer novelettes).

Jim Black said...

FOUR FOR TOMORROW is one of my favorite collections. Another favorite was George R. R. Martin's SONG OF STARS AND SHADOWS.