Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Casual Shorts & the ISFdb Top Short Fiction #16: Light of Other Days by Bob Shaw

Shaw, Bob. "Light of Other Days." Analog Science Fiction--Science Fact, August 1966.

This article is part of my attempt to read the 155 stories currently (as of 1 November 2022) on the ISFdb's Top Short Fiction list. Please see the introduction and list of stories here. I am encouraging readers to rate the stories and books they have read on the ISFdb.

ISFdb Rating:    9.14/10
My Rating:         7/10

"Leaving the village behind, we followed the heady sweeps of the road up into a land of slow glass."

A pregnant and unhappy couple travel from London into the rural townships, where they come across a farm selling slow glass. Slow glass is a process of leaving a special pane of glass aimed at a scene for one year, and the glass would capture the image and reflect it for the next year. "If the glass was then removed and installed in a dismal city flat, the flat would--for that year--appear to overlook the woodland lake." This particular slow glass farmer has in stock glass that is "ten years thick." Garland is ready to make a purchase, thinking that introducing something different to their lives might help his marriage, but his wife Selina is skeptical.

A good story overall, though predictable. I also wonder if the story intends to inform us the unhappy couple will see things differently and save their relationship in light of the farmer's tragedy, so that rather than the glass reflecting a special view, the farmer's life is reflecting potential happiness for their future, in contrast to the darkness of his past. This is a nice notion, but the bitterness between Garland and Selina seems to me too deep to salvage, and people do not change so easily, particularly ones as heard-headed as these two urbanites.

1 comment:

Todd Mason said...

Part of what made this story important to readers at the time, I'd suggest, was the cleverness of slow glass as a metaphor for memory, and the cross-riffing with things lost in the protagonists' relations...hard sf concepts applied as social and emotional metaphor taking on more freight than usual.

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