Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"Dispatches" reviewed at SF Site

Just last night I commented to Patricia that "Dispatches from the Troubles", my novellete published in Greatest Uncommon Denominator (GUD) No. 6, looks to be my greatest literary flop. In three reviews of GUD that I've seen previously, one ignored it and the others didn't like it.

"Troubles" was experimental on my part; the format (fake news stories) and the length (over 11,000 words) were an innovation. I accepted the poor reviews philosophically - if you stick your neck out, someone may start sawing away at it. I am grateful to the editors of GUD for the faith they put in the story, and anyway, the check cleared. Although GUD doesn't pay pro rates, because of the length of the story it was the scond largest sale I ever made, topping the check I got from Asimov's ("The Witch of Waxahachie" at Jim Baen's Universe remains my most lucrative story.)

After all these ruminations, I just saw that the SF Site's Mid-May edition has a review of Issue No. 6 of GUD by Seamus Sweeney, and it generally has positive things to say about Dispatches - and its criticisms are valid. You can follow the link above to the page for the full review, but I have cut and pasted the part about "Dispatches" below:


The longest story here is Lou Antonelli's "Dispatches From the Troubles," which takes the form of a series of newspaper stories from an alternate history universe in which an American Irish Republic was established in 1850, between the Rio Grande and the Nueces River. New York born Eamon de Valera did not return to Ireland as a child but remained in America (as Edward de Valera) and became the universally beloved President of the AIR in the early to mid-twentieth century. There was no partition of Ireland into Free State and Northern Ireland in 1921, but the victorious IRA gave the Loyalist and Unionist communities in Ireland the choice of "the suitcase or the coffin," leading to mass emigration to the AIR. The mock news stories discuss the descent of the AIR, which has a sizeable Loyalist (or "Orange") minority, into sectarian strife that in some ways mirrors what happened in Northern Ireland from the late 60s.
It is interesting, as an Irish reader, to encounter this alternate history universe. There are lots of entertainingly tweaked versions of real life figures, from William F. Buckley (a sectarian Catholic rabble rouser here, with his loquacious use of language intact) to "John" Paisley (an Americanised Ian Paisley) and a lot of clever references to real events. I must say however that something about the whole conceit did not ring true; an odd thing to say about an alternate history, but after all one of the tests of good alt history is whether it feels like "this could have happened." Certainly the ultimate outcome of the story (which I won't reveal) does not reflect anything that happened in Northern Ireland. There were also some odd references to the Orange community being enthusiasts of "Irish football," which if it is meant to be Gaelic Football seems unlikely. Perhaps it is some kind of AIR version of gridiron. Antonelli's correspondents (who include R.W. Apple, Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson) make a few solecisms with the real historical record; for instance Apple describes the Battle of the Boyne as "a famous victory over Catholic forces." As William Of Orange's supporters included the Pope, and you can't get more Catholic than that, "Jacobite" would have been more accurate.

In any case, the story is diverting and, as with the previous GUD issue, this is a collection worth reading.

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