The ED SF Project

The Ellen Datlow/SCI FICTION Project, that is. We're showing the love for five and a half years of great short fiction, and we need your help! We've got over 300 stories to cover, so if you're a person who loves short speculative fiction, we want you. Go here to read the list and add your voice.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

"The Heat Death of the Universe" by Pamela Zoline: An Appreciation by Alison Page

The Heat Death of the Universe by Pamela Zoline

Is there such a thing as a female voice? If so, this story is written in such a voice. The voice of futile resistance. Nothing happens, except that the universe winds down eight hours further. Sarah Boyle expends her human intellect and capacity for grief on tidying a house. Pamela Zoline acknowledges the Universe. It's beautiful, but not very comforting.

There are many definitions of entropy: 'the probability of encountering a particular micro-state within a closed system'. As things become more disordered they become less predictable. Ordered systems, as Tolstoy said about happy marriages, are all the same. Tidy houses and healthy children approach similarity. Sarah Boyle, like this planet's bubble of life, expends energy to resist entropy. She is not thanked for her effort. But then, neither is the biosphere.

Through resistance to entropy all states become more similar, more like California.

All topographical imperfections sanded away with the sweet-smelling burr of the plastic surgeon's cosmetic polisher, a world populace dieting, leisured, similar in pink and mauve hair and rhinestone shades. A land Cunt Pink and Avocado Green, brassiered and girdled by monstrous complexities of Super Highways.

Eventually entropy wins. Is this a happy ending? Zoline asks us why we continue to resist. Why we prefer Ajax to Dust.

Poised in what has become a solid cube of light... the dust is indeed the most beautiful stuff in the room

But entropy is death. It is cancer and starvation. It is the woman growing old. With every paragraph and word, Zoline acknowledges the necessity and futility of our resistance to the winding down of life. The metaphors are nested like Russian dolls, a lesson in infinity.

What colour are Sarah Boyle's eyes?

the promising fat, unnatural blue of the heavy tranquilizer capsule; the cool mean blue of that fake kitchen sponge; the deepest, most unbelievable azure of the tiled and mossless interiors of California swimming pools.

The blue video colour of a TV, tuned to a dead channel.

Link to story.

(Alison Page)


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