Birthday Reviews: Tenn, Zelazny

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This week is when Galaxy‘s collide. Both stories are about lust and life but one is a semi-comic brightly-lit tale of commerce from Gold’s era and one is a semi-tragic twilight tale of romance from Pohl’s era.

William Tenn (1920-05-09–2010-02-07)

“Betelgeuse Bridge” (Galaxy, April 1951)

When alien slugs arrive on Earth, an ad man is brought in to sell them to humanity while scientists (and the ad man) try to figure out what’s going on with them, hampered by the aliens’ flowery and roundabout speech. And, as the ad man is trying to sell them, they’re trying to sell to us. When the aliens reveal they’ve got life-quintupling machines, humanity is willing to trade almost anything for them.

Many readers will probably see the main ending before it happens and some may also see the denouement as too easy, but it’s an entertaining tale with a couple of bits of neat symmetry.

Roger Zelazny (1937-05-13–1995-06-14)

“The Man Who Loved the Faioli” (Galaxy, June 1967)

This is and isn’t a science fiction story of desire and death in which John Auden is and isn’t alive and Sythia is and isn’t a woman. She is a Faioli, one of those who can only see life and who stay with men for a month before they die, and he is a twice-smitten man in a half-life…

They crossed through the Valley of the Bones, where millions of the dead from many races and worlds lay stacked all about them, and she did not see these things. She had come to the graveyard of all the worlds, but she did not realize this thing. She had encountered its keeper, its tender, and she did not know what he was, he who staggered beside her like a man drunken.

His nature gives him an interesting perspective on Sythia and all she represents with unusual results.

Like so much of Zelazny, this isn’t my kind of thing in theory but is such a well-written and effective sci-fairy tale that it is in practice.