Small Thoughts: Visible Cities by Rachel Pollack, Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, July/August 2018

A lot has happened since I last posted here. I know. I got the flu in the middle of summer. Can you believe it? While I had the flu I went on a summit attempt to climb Tahoma (Mount Rainer) and made it up to about 12,500 or so before complications ensued and my party had to retreat.

Now that I’m finally back home and in the groove of things again, I’ve begun reading and writing.

cov1807lg-250Today I read Visible Cities by Rachel Pollack. Pollack has been one of my favorite short story writers for some years now. I think it was back in 2012 that F&SF published a piece called “Immortal Snake,” by Rachel, and I have held onto the issue ever since because it made such an impression on me.

From the title, I couldn’t help wonder about where the inspiration for this piece was found. Visible Cities explores a side character of Pollack’s serialized supernatural detective character Jack Shade, so that’s obvious inspiration–but Visible Cities is very nearly Invisible Cities which is the title of Italo Calvino’s most famous novel. While there do seem to be some loose connections–I’m curious if a reread of Invisible Cities would enlighten me more to any parallels.

This story, by Rachel Pollack, is the origin story for a side character, Carolien, Jack Shade’s lover. It is a wonderful reminder that those characters are actually the center of their own vast and extreme plots. Much of this story is an expansion of the world Jack Shade lives in, and while the plot is a simple one: Caroline gets a teacher in the arcane arts and when her teacher disappears she goes and looks for him, the place’s she visits are whimsical and creepy in some wonderful ways.

The end of the piece is marked by one of Rachel Pollack’s signature lessons, in which character and reader learn something about the world they share within the confines of the story. The best part about this piece is the strange and surprising world you get to inhabit. (C)

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