||[Aug. 13th, 2009|12:24 am]
For years I've had a love-hate relationship with the stories of Nancy Kress. Note that I said "the stories of." Nancy herself is a sweetheart. And she's an excellent writer; I wish we had more that were as talented and dedicated. But with many of her stories I'd find myself positively *hating* something about them. No need to go into details here, but: "Flowers of Aulit Prison"? Ruined on page two. "The Price of Oranges"? A really pretty good story--but oh, that one damned slip, like stepping into a pothole you didn't see. "Trinity"? Don't get me started. "Beggars in Spain"? Well, I hear the novel's better and actually does address some of the things I disliked about the story.
So, yeah, there's a lot of her stuff I don't like. Probably more, percentage-wise, than about anyone else whom I continue to read. Yes, I continue to read her, because she's still *that* good. It's actually become something of a thrill, picking up a new (to me) Kress story and wondering if there will be something in it that grates so hard that I'll remember it for years.
So I just now finished a long story by Nancy that did, indeed, have something that grated. And you know what? It doesn't matter, not this time. Because it's *that* good a story. In fact, I think it's one of the best stories I've read in the past few years. (Although I should admit that my story consumption is not what it used to be.) I've been working my way through Kress's collection, Nano Comes to Clifford Falls and Other Stories. I'm almost finished, and I've enjoyed every one. They're not all great stories -- some are admittedly (by the author) fluff -- but neither are there any missteps, at least of the kind that screech my personal blackboard. It's a solid showcase.
That particular long story? "Shiva in Shadow." Yes, it has some "ugh! fuzzy New Age stuff" in it (parttimedriver can explain the reference), but, you know what? It didn't matter. No--I take that back. It did matter. It needed to be in the story to help make it the excellent story that it is. It also has crashing stars, black holes, shadow matter and uploaded personalities. It all works. Everything fits. It's heart-breaking and wonderfully affirming. Read it, and ask along with me: "How did Nancy do that?!"
I'm not worrying anymore about the things I don't like in her stories. There will always be stories, or things in stories, that just hit me the wrong way. But I think I've decided that, with Nancy, this has more to do with my own angles and precipices than with her talent. Of that, there is no doubt.