The October issue of The Believer arrived in the mail a few days ago. I was extremely pleased to see a rave review of Carol Emshwiller’s latest collection I Live with You (see Read Read sidebar), but a tiny bit flummoxed by the final two paragraphs:
You’ll find I Live with You, along with Emswhiller’s others, in your bookstore’s Science Fiction section; among its stories are some originally printed in journals like The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and the curiously titled Sci Fiction. But very little here is demonstrably indebted to either genre. If there was anything particularly scientific about any of these, it escaped me. And even the overtly fantastic elements are downplayed, mitigated by an attitude that vacillates between embarrassment and boredom. Two stories feature characters who belong to races of men who fly. But neither group exactly soars through the clouds. In one story, the unnamed people levitate, slightly, but try not to. In the other, "Gliders Though They Be," they simply fall slower.
What allows us to leave Emshwiller to her own devices in the backwoods of genre is what’s missing from the collection’s title: You Don’t Know It. Like the best-considered sci-fantasy, Emshwiller avoids making the generic elements–the robots and the elves–the point. Instead, they’re elegant tropes for the mundane. She takes the long way around, but her destination is ultimately the same. Where, we don’t know.
But then I went to look for more about the reviewer, Chris Tamarri, and found his blog and really liked it. So I’ll just memorialize the slight wrong-headedness here and add him to the blogroll.
Updated: See discussion in comments where Tamarri explains what he meant and I take back my sigh.