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Monday, April 22, 2013

"The Silken-Swift" by Theodore Sturgeon


  • F&SF 
  • The Best Fantasy Stories from the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, ed. Edward L. Ferman
  • Masterpieces of Fantasy and Enchantment, ed. David G. Hartwell
  • The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories, ed. Tom Shippey
  • The Fantasy Hall of Fame, ed. Robert Silverberg
  • online
  • ebook
The events are intriguing enough.  Del chases after Rita, but Rita won't be had by any man.  Del is so lusty she temporarily blinds him.  He runs into Barbara, the vegetable stall girl, who tells him of a unicorn, but he thinks it's Rita and chases her off.  

When Del can see, he corners Rita.  Rita still won't be had, and no, she never said anything about a unicorn.  But since she's a virgin she'd like to capture it for herself.  However, the unicorn isn't fooled.

Interestingly, the story wasn't widely collected until thirty years later.  It must have had something to say to that generation--probably about sexuality.  I enjoyed Barbara getting the upper hand, but the character's are unusually flat for Sturgeon, who usually takes time to imbue nuances of depths.

The language is sometimes magically inspired (after describing how animals and plants help Barbara out):
"[I]f a fruit stayed green for two weeks longer until Barbara had time to go to the market, of if a mole could channel moisture to the roots of the corn, why it was the least they could do."
Other times, the language oversweetens as it stretches for poetry.  I might need to read what the above editors wrote in regards to this story.  I may have missed something.  Dozois wrote, "[O]ne of the most renowned of all unicorn stories, [Sturgeon] explores the subtle differences between those who are blind and those who will not see."  If you've read it and found nuance, let me know.  I have changed my mind--"Microcosmic God" for one.

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