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

"More Spinned Against …" by John Wyndham: An Appreciation by Kathryn Allen

I found "Light of Other Days" at SCIFICTION when I could recall neither the title nor the name of the author but remembered the story and "slow glass." I found new stories people were talking about, and old stories I'd never read or had forgotten, and I browsed whenever I really needed a treat. Losing SCIFICTION won't destroy my life, but it will make my internet less interesting and enjoyable.

So I'd like to appreciate "More Spinned Against . . ."

John Wyndham is a name that crops up in conversation about SFF less often than I'd expect -- except that I know I don't usually include him in a shortlist of my own favourite writers. Odd, because I've read most of what I can lay my hands on, enjoyed doing so, and his stories tend to stick in my mind. The Chrysalids, The Day of the Triffids, The Midwich Cuckoos, Chocky . . . it's years since I read them but I could give a better account of their plots than of others I've read more recently and, while I'm very bad at putting short fiction to author (hence googling for "Light of Other Days"), I'd recognise more than a few of his short stories if I came across them.

"More Spinned Against" isn't the title of a collection (unlike "Consider Her Ways") but it's a charming story that manages to surprise me even though I know going in that when you make bargains with gods, or devils, or other supernatural creatures something always goes wrong . . . take up the ferryman's pole (or any other mythical figure's burden) and you'll be rowing a long time. I know the myths and fairy tales . . . and yet the ending I get is still a less expected one, a pleasing surprise because I've been suspecting the wrong pitfalls. Not by a cheat, or false leads, but by masterful sleight-of-hand.

Looking back from the last line I can see that the story led me to this ending and nowhere else, but managed to provide me with a gorgeous dawning of realisation in the last few paragraphs. A broad beaming smile as the pieces fell into place. I like a story that can do that.

And while he does that magic Wyndham gets in some characterisational digs at a certain level of middle-class English society that's recognisable fifty years on. Something to think about.

It's a neat little story that's bigger on the inside than the outside, and John Wyndham's a writer whose influence on SFF (in the UK especially but we're not so very much of an island when it comes to literature) has been broader and deeper than I believe he's credited with.

But maybe the best thing about "More Spinned Against" is that it's fun. Entertaining at the point of sale. A small but delicious treat.

In all those ways, it's also like SCIFICTION.

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