October 2nd, 2007


Black Sheep

Paul DiFilippo (theinferior4) has written about Black Sheep very nicely:

...[A] lot of this dark-and-dismal literary forecasting is often just atmospheric, setting up dictatorial straw men for the hero to rebel against. Every Luke Skywalker needs his Darth Vader. Only a minority of science fiction dystopias attempt to plumb the real existential roots of oppression, the flaws in humanity's nature that undermine our best attempts at organizing ourselves into social units.

One such arrives now from newcomer Ben Peek. With the gravitas of a Margaret Atwood or Kazuo Ishiguro, Peek, in his debut novel, Black Sheep, crafts a quietly horrifying world displaced from ours by a century of time and an implosion of globalist attitudes. After worldwide racial wars wreak massive devastation, the UN asserts transnational supremacy and divides every major metropolitan area into separate-but-equal enclaves for Asian, African, and Caucasian peoples. No mixing allowed. Multiculturalism is a crime, with transgressors apprehended by the dreaded Segregators. Punishment is Assimilation: the literal bleaching of the offender to a ghost and the implantation of mind-control devices, creating a slave for society's scut work.

It's an ever-potent trope -- Rupert Thomson plumbed a similar schema in his
Divided Kingdom
(2005) -- and Peek puts his anomie-driven hero Isao Dazai, reluctant immigrant to Asian-Sydney, through a Kafkaesque ordeal, carrying the reader along through multiple milieus of this warped world, where the laudable attempt to gain stability has been perverted by totalitarian means.

Never heard of Divided Kingdom, though, so I'm going to go check that in a second. You, on the other hand, should buy the book from Amazon or Galaxy Bookshop or even Barnes and Noble, which is where the review comes from.


Black Betty at Lone Star Stories

My story, 'Black Betty', is now live on Lone Star Stories. Fiction from Forrest Aguirre, Claude Lalumiere, and poetry from Pam McNew, Marcie Lynn Tentchoff, and Mikal Trimm are also there, so if you don't like me, you might like them.

What inspired me, originally, about this story, was a form that I saw used by the Japanese author Ryunosuke Akutagawa, in a piece called 'In A Bamboo Grove'. In it, Akutagawa uses a series of different narrators to talk about the murder of a woman, each of them with a conflicting version of what has happened. The story was adapted, years ago, by Akira Kurosawa for the film Rashomon, which is, actually, a title that Akutagawa used for a different story, and one that I think is a little more successful in its emotions at the end than the previous. It's also a lot more straight forward, however, and where's the fun in that? Anyhow: what interested me was the use of that broken up narrative device, and the different voices I could use, and the dramatic tension I could get out of what is, essentially, a series of monologues.

I wrote the story at the start of the year and, ten months later, I still like the way it came out, which is not always true for me. But, it's not like my opinion is worth anything on these matters. Go read it and tell me what you think.