The Woman Who Is the Midnight Wind

Description

139 pages
$9.95
ISBN 0-919001-33-5
DDC C813'

Publisher

Year

1987

Contributor

Reviewed by Diane Derksen

Diane Derksen was an editor with the Ontario Ministry of Education and a lecturer in English literature at the University of Toronto.

Review

Terence Green has been quoted as saying: “I’ve always thought the genre [science fiction) could produce literature … I’d like to think I could help elevate it to that level.” This set of ten short stories gives many indications of moves toward that end. Like all good writing, these stories make demands on the reader. They are “speculative” fiction. Green’s essential interest in truth — how you find it and how you deal with it — is a pervasive theme. Whatever “fantastic twist” this author may give a story, whatever “peripherals” may be altered in the projected world of the not-so-distant future, Green’s stories turn on the emotional touchstones of human experience. Inner action is the primary focus of these narratives.

In the first story, “Ashland, Kentucky,” the territories of family relationships are explored. The choric note of the father’s comment “Things have to be settled or they never go away” penetrates the 40-year-old son’s journey to the past in order “to think, to feel — to try to understand” for himself an unresolved relationship that haunted his dying mother. The second story, “Barking Dogs,” also follows an inner action from crisis to a point of stability. The protagonist, Mitch Helwig, doesn’t need an infallible lie detector (or “barking dogs”) to catch the consciences of people he loves or hates; he simply needs to recognize the truth that is the centre of his own well-being. Another reflective — and moving — account of growing self-awareness is the title story, “The Woman Who is the Midnight Wind.” In it, a human pioneer on the planet Juturna writes in her diary: “We are strange creatures, we humans. We are as often alien to one another as we are to an alien species. With whom are we to relate?”

Questions abound. Discoveries comfort and discomfit. The features of the spiritual and emotional landscape are emphasized and frequently clarified by the fantastic or alien. But whatever the imaginative constructs — the alien creatures of Juturna and Pantella, “point zero” (arranged by Tess Truebottom), Susie Q2 (Leo Benson’s faithful computer), Chronoline rides to visit your dead widow, or minor delights like synthascotch and skimmers — the anxieties and the questions do not change. They are wholly human.

Green’s style may not yet be as “literary” as his themes but the writing is captivating. Sometimes setting reflects disconcertingly familiar images. (In “Room 1786” and “Japanese Tea,” for example, virtually depersonalized — even dehumanized — educational environments of the future are depicted.) Tone encompasses serious reflection, wry humour, and devastating irony. In structuring the action, Green uses variants of an episodic style, often in memoir or diary form. Thoughts are strongly imagined as the reader, along with the fictional characters, begins to “see feelingly.” The emotional power of the central themes is reminiscent of similar force in Spider Robinson’s chronicle of Zack and Timeth, “It’s a Sunny Day,” included in an earlier science fiction anthology (Visions from the Edge, 1981) from the same press.

All 10 short stories in this collection have appeared previously, in books or journals, between 1979 and 1986. The first item, “Ashland, Kentucky,” has reappeared in a recent anthology of Canadian science fiction, Tesseracts 2 (Porcépic Books, 1977).

 

Citation

Green, Terence M., “The Woman Who Is the Midnight Wind,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/34524.