First appeared in Edward L. Ferman’s F&SF. Reprinted in several Year’s Best and genre retrospectives by Terry Carr, Judith Merril, Robert Silverberg, Martin H. Greenberg, Edward L. Ferman, Jack M. Dann, David G. Hartwell, Kathryn Cramer, Gardner R. Dozois, Stephen R. Donaldson, Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman, Brian M. Thomsen, Ellen Datlow, and Gordon Van Gelder. Online.
Summary:In order to keep his land after taxation took it away from him, Clarence Big-Saddle puts a curse on the land to make it seem less than it is. Several homesteaders have tried to occupy the land but failed. Scientists come to explain the phenomena of a land that looks like a ditch but whose length is longer than it seems.
Discussion:The latest family to occupy the land seems to succeed although the Rampart father has to be carried bodily into the land. Some scientists come up with hypotheses and are self-satisfied with their validity while others simply scratch their heads--perhaps with a shade more honesty.
The latest Native American son, Clarence Little-Saddle, seeing the Ramparts adjusting to the difficult perspective, puts another curse on the land that flattens the Rampart family into two dimensions. This links it to Edwin A. Abbott’s Flatland dimensional masterwork.
However, a stronger dimension is that between Native Americans and the homesteaders who took over their lands. While many gained lands through a kind of verbal trickery, Lafferty turns the tables. The Native American Saddle family literalizes the flat perspective the pioneering Ramparts family have of Native Americans on to their persons.
While clearly considered one of Lafferty’s classics, aspects of the tale get over-gnawed. Interestingly, this story is classified as fantasy by some, SF by others as the story achieves its SF-ness through spells.