Mike’s Prattle

Miscellaneous

Books Received; Lucius Shepard “The Etheric Transmitter;” Italo Calvino – The Castle of Crossed Destinies

Posted by Mike on June 21, 2006

  • Lucius Shepard – Colonel Rutherford's Colt
  • John Fowles – The Magus
  • Theodore Sturgeon – Killdozer! (Collected Stories Vol. 3)

You never know unless you ask, but given that "The Etheric Transmitter" was a Clarion submission (Clarion being a speculative fiction workshop), I assume it's probably the earliest of Lucius Shepard's published stories. It's an intriguing one, picking up the interest in the ether of the early 20th century and using it as a time travel device through potentiality. It's definitely different in tone from what I usually expect from Shepard, although it again deals with an unusual occult idea in a new way. The protagonist transmits her voice into the future (or the present) through the Eiffel Tower, her relating of her story causing massive political shifts as people listen to it over several days. It's not a bad story, even a little pulp-era like.

Calvino's Castle is an experiment of writing pictorially through tarot cards and actually contains two collections of interrelated stories, the title and "The Tavern of Crossed Destinies." Calvino uses the card pictures literally rather than symbolically (kabbalistic etc) to recreate myths that interweave with the other stories. I'd say my interest in tarot probably got in the way more than helped, as the interpretations of the pictures were often vastly different than the card meanings. It's my second Calvino, I read The Baron in the Trees many years ago, and enjoyed it much more than this. I found some of the liberties taken, even interpreting the cards pictorially, to be distracting, although given the pictures' various symbolic definitions, I'm not sure why. But in a certain way it was pretty clever, mostly in the way the various stories would create a map using all the cards where you could read a story vertically and horizontally. But the stories themselves were often fairy tale like and not very interesting in their own right, so it succeeded less in the read and more in the experiment. Thankfully it was pretty short.

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