The DWJ Project: Believing is Seeing – Seven Stories

Another short story collection. Two of the stories in here are repeats from collections I’ve previously read: “Dragon Reserve, Home Eight” (in Warlock at the Wheel) and “The Sage of Theare” (in both that and Mixed Magics). The other five are new, in the sense that I haven’t read them before; I didn’t think to approach these things in publication order.

“The Master” didn’t do a lot for me; it felt a little too weird and disjointed, not drawing together until the end, and even then not enough. That scene gave the story a point, but didn’t do anything to put previous events in context.

“Enna Hittims” got me off on the wrong foot with the way Anne’s parents took care of her — or rather, failed to — when she was seriously ill with the mumps. This might be the neglected-child version of what I’ve started thinking of as the Goon Problem: I don’t mind the titular character in Archer’s Goon being horrible at people, because the novel both fleshes out that situation and waters it down with other narrative material, but I dislike that motif when it shows up in condensed form in DWJ’s short fiction. Anne being left to more or less starve, and then being laughed at by her father for the disfigurement brought on by the mumps, really rubbed me the wrong way, even though some of the kids in the novels suffer far worse. The end was touching, though.

“The Girl Who Loved the Sun” was pretty good, in a tragic and deeply disturbed way.

“What the Cat Told Me” is fun but not memorable; the plot is fairly mundane, lifted up a touch by the narrative voice of the cat.

“Nad and Dan Adn Quaffy” I remember reading before, and it still doesn’t do a lot for me. As with my complaint about the stories in Stopping for a Spell and Warlock at the Wheel, the magic is too random and unexplained, and the running motif with the typos doesn’t amuse me enough. I do like the line about pretending to be the captain of a starship, though.

0 Responses to “The DWJ Project: Believing is Seeing – Seven Stories”

  1. fjm

    I rather liked What the Cat Told Me, but DWJ is not really a short story writer. The screwball structure doesn’t work at short story length.

    I never questioned the background to Enna Hittens. As a kid, if I was ill my mother went to work leaving me a can of tomato soup and a can of rice pudding. If I had migraine I was told was faking it. Story seemed pretty damned plausible to me.

    • Marie Brennan

      I don’t disbelieve the setup in “Enna Hittims” — I’m just appalled by it, in ways that got between me and the story. In part because this isn’t just the flu; she has the mumps, which (to my born-in-1980 perspective) is way more serious. Her father mocking her for what I think of as one of the Really Bad Diseases just got my brain off on the wrong foot.

      • joyeuce

        Interesting – to my born-in-1976 perspective, flu is a lot worse than mumps! Mumps in my childhood was a mild, irritating disease that pretty much everyone had to go through; the worst thing about it for me was that it nearly stopped me being in that year’s pantomime, but that was because I was infectious rather than because I was ill. Yes, I now know it can have serious side effects, but I didn’t then. Anne’s parents’ behaviour seemed perfectly OK to me, but then my mother is a doctor so childhood illnesses were never a big deal.

        I like Nad and Dan adn Quaffy; I think the bit about pretending to be the captain of a starship resonates with my early experience with computers.

        • Marie Brennan

          I guess it’s that we vaccinate against mumps, which for me puts it into the category of “scary disease that used to kill kids all the time.” (I’m pretty sure a friend of mine had a nearly-dire run-in with it, actually, for complicated reasons. It might not have been mumps, but it was one from that category.)

          • joyeuce

            Kids here get vaccinated against it now (unless their parents object because of the bad press there’s been about the combined measles-mumps-rubella vaccine), but that hadn’t yet come in when I was a child; we had separate measles and rubella (girls only) vaccines but nothing for mumps.

          • chomiji

            Part of the thing with mumps is that it can have some serious side effects, especially for boys. But it was still in the category of non-serious diseases that your mom wanted you to catch and get it over with, when I was a kid.

  2. Marie Brennan

    Hah, is that who it’s supposed to be? The notes at the beginning of the book say the character is based on a real writer, but I lacked the context to guess who it might be.

  3. Anonymous

    And Gelsey, you’re the winner of the free copy of DARKBEAST! Send me an email with your street address — — and I’ll have S&S send a copy of the book your way!

    Thanks so much for joining in the discussion!


  4. Anonymous

    I’m glad they’re useful!

  5. Anonymous

    Of my online fiction, I think “In the Gardens of the Night” over at BCS would come closest to suiting your purposes.

    Kij Johnson’s “Ponies” might work for gender id.

    I’ll think about the rest.

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