5.05.2005

Harry Turtledove's "Bedfellows" at F&SF

Apparently, Dave Truesdale is riled up over Gordon Van Gelder's preface to the story that suggests that the magazine could be closed down because of Turtledove's story. There's a little discussion at Lit-Haven, too, although they miss Truesdale's point, bringing up points only slightly more minor than Truesdale's. It would certainly be great for business at F&SF if the government did try to do something about it. So maybe we should all draw up sides, act offended toward each side of the issue, make demands so that F&SF's circulation can go back up.

(Gordon's response to Truesdale is interesting although it doesn't really address Truesdale's point about the preface's presumed exaggeration, but if the government comes knocking, then maybe the preface's suggestion isn't exaggerated. Time will tell.)

Unfortunately, this six-page story raises a hullabaloo more minor than the above conversations--a six-page story that goes on five pages too long. It would probably work best as an editorial cartoon with the caption, "George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden get married." That'd be a good gag if the cartoonist could both capture and caricaturize the satirized's expressions. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if someone has already done this.

But the story starts and ends with the same premise. Where's the speculative development? What does each scene add? Little.

It's not just a structural lack of finesse:

"Boy, you'd think we're in the middle of a nucular war or something," W says. He always pronounces it nucular.

"Nuclear," O says gently. "It's nuclear." You can tell he's been trying to get W to do it right for a long time. Every couple needs a little something to squabble about. It takes the strain off, it really does.

There are ways to carry off old gags, and beating a dead horse is not one of them. How about simply:

"Boy, you'd think we're in the middle of a nucular war or something," W says.

"Nuclear," O says gently. Every couple needs a little something to squabble about.

Which isn't perfect, either, but doesn't this say everything the above said in less than half the words?