Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Fade to White, by Cathrynne M. Valente

A pretty common theme in disaster stories, true and fictional, is that people in those situations try to hang on to some form of normalcy.  It's very deliberate where children are involved, and is done for their comfort--presumably that is true for adults also.

So speculative fiction can take that to its logical conclusion.  In the worst forms of disaster, people may cling to the most staid of their traditions, represented by extreme conservatism.  One example that comes to mind is A Boy and His Dog, a series of stories by Harlan Ellison adapted into a movie.  I only saw the movie, and apparently it doesn't do the series justice.  We have another in Valente's Fade to White.  

The story centers on Marvin, hoping to grow up to be a Husband--few men are now fertile, and the ones that are must have several wives, so they travel from family to family.  Sylvie could be one of these wives, but she is not looking forward to it--she is tuned in to the desolation of the situation, large swaths of landscape glassed over and lifeless.  President McCarthy endorses beer and leads the few people left after a nuclear war.  The story is illustrated with drafts of ad campaigns for enhanced food and toiletries--marketing is part of that normalcy.  And it's really pretty good, in a very overt Sheri S. Tepper sort of way.  I liked it, even if it doesn't really extend the trope much.  A nice dystopian read before bed.  3 stars.

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