Buy it now direct from Lethe Press or from our Amazon.com store to help support our site – Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories
Sandra McDonald is a master (mistress?) of allusion and metaphor. Her storytelling caresses a fantastic reality where nothing much seemed odd to me, or disconcerting; the weaving of the tales unhindered by any notions of the impossible. I would love to spend a few minutes riding the synapses in her mind, just to see what quirky and ever so incredible route they take in order to conjure such a reality.
This collection of fifteen shorts, counting the Prologue, takes you into a universe where the inevitable question becomes: Where does she get this stuff? How does she manage to hand the reader such improbabilities while, at the same time, evoking from the reader a notion that the matter-of-factness of her writing is witness that she sees some parallel universe where those improbabilities are, well, quite possible?
Ships at sea manned, um, womaned by nuns; firehouse mascots consisting of a three-headed dog, a water nymph; a fairy named “Tinkerbob,” throwing glitter as he flies and dances about the firehouse; an orchestra entombed in a tiny metal box that comes to life, plays horribly—later superbly—made up of musicians lost at sea, then animated by a magician’s tinkering with “…sacred metal from blessed mines;” a sect of pagan sorceresses who pass on the art of magic lacemaking to an unfortunate waif, Caterina, with the caveat the magic must never be taught to boys or men; a wooden sea captain’s statue, trapped within the confines of a beachfront carnival, who talks to gulls and befriends a small boy, of whom he begs a cup of the sea, to taste the sea or he will die; “Whitesuits,” aliens who appear to be saving humanity from itself, but have a troublesome little habit of gobbling up the ocean. And, there are no Gods in these stories. Just Goddesses. Amen.
These wonderful stories are, for the most part, metaphorical. All manner of sexuality and gender identification are dealt with respectfully, “…as sacred…,” as McDonald notes in her dedication. Notably the dedication also cites the beating death of Matthew Shepard in 1998, where the defendants at trial relied upon the “gay panic defense.”
McDonald ends each story with Author’s Notes. It is here the charming undercurrent of humor and, indeed, historical fact in the preceding story, is reflected upon in such a way the reader sees McDonald give us a blink of an eye, an impish grin. There are so many gems in the Author’s Notes, it is impossible to pick a favorite.
This is speculative fiction at its best, delivered with a writer’s twist—the result of those quirky synapses firing—that takes the reader to places they have never been…body, mind, or soul. Trust me on this.
Reviewed by George Seaton