Thursday, December 27, 2018

"Go, Go, Go, Said the Bird" (1967)

Sonya Dorman's story fits the general tone of extremity that anthology editor Harlan Ellison seemed to be looking for in the Dangerous Visions collection. I wish I knew more about the genesis of many of these stories, whether directly commissioned or pulled out of a slush pile from a general call, because in a way I think there has to be an interesting story behind this one beyond what Ellison and Dorman tell us in their notes. By the way, Dorman makes three women versus 29 men for the collection, which is pathetic but sadly miles ahead of most science fiction and horror collections of the time. Like some others here, Dorman is entirely unknown to me. In this story the future has become one of scarcity and cannibalism. It's a little reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. The action involves a woman running with an air of desperation and remembering scenes of her past. So again we have the in media res treatment, concrete action with conceptual explanation half a step behind and kind of bogging things down. Not that meaningless action is ever that interesting, and in this case the running (presumably for her life) is not at all interesting. However, the scenes of human carcasses as butcher product are vividly imagined. They include babies, as did The Road. I'm not saying McCarthy owes her anything—his novel is infinitely better than this story. But Dorman was there first in many of these details. Ellison mentions in his introduction that Dorman was also a dog breeder, which might explain a little the cold familiarity with blunt facts of life, death, birth, and survival. And eating meat. It's a bit muddled and carried away with itself but it goes to deep and dark places. Its greatest strength is the horrors it casually imagines. However uninspired and obtuse it might seem now, it's also brave to write something like this and put your name on it. According to the internet, Dorman also wrote poetry, which reminds me, the title of this story comes from a headnote, which in turn comes from T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets. Enough said about the state of poetry in 1967. But I like the title, the loony imperative and the baby talk repetition. It's a good foreshadow of what's to come in the story.

Dangerous Visions, ed. Harlan Ellison

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