Other forthcoming discussions of The Callahan Chronicals:
Summaries and Commentaries with spoilers:
- The Guy with the Eyes: First appeared in Analog. Alien slave bot shows up in Callahan's bar. He is built to alter Earth, but cannot alter his programming. He agreed Earthlings must be "cured" until he entered Callahan's--a place of acceptance and love. The only way to change his programming is to destroy him.
Commentary: Odd that he has not found love until he entered a bar. But it's an otherwise good opening and introduction to the bar's atmosphere. Bar flies change the alien's mind. They save the world bt slipping him a Micky Finn because his name is Michael Finn. Somewhat clever to have the opening puns create a plot point. This story is essential to its opposite, "Unnatural Causes," and to the series' finale, "The Mick of Time"--at least that should the series' close.
- The Time-Traveler: First appeared in Analog. A preacher walks into a bar with a gun. He and his wife had gone to a make-believe Latin American country, run by a dictator who threw them in jail. Left there ten years until his wife died, he's finally released, minus everything he'd loved: wife, god, purpose, and ten years of his life.
Commentary: Not SF, but the way it transforms the sense of its title requires some rudimentary understanding of SF to appreciate (perhaps an early interstitial story?). It is the most moving of all the stories in this section. If you read just one of these, this is the one. A more painful version of Washington Irving's "Rip Van Winkle." The preacher has a kind of culture shock returning to a country much altered after a decade. He redeems himself and spares another of his kind, not to mention being a different kind of preacher... behind the bar.
- The Centipede’s Dilemma: Reprinted by George H. Scithers and Darrell Schweitzer. A man with terrible dart-throwing form but with perfect aim and a bottomless tumbler of gin raises suspicions.
Commentary: He has telekinesis and nearly kills himself.
- Two Heads Are Better Than One: First appeared in Analog. Young man worried. Half-brother, Paul, was a telepathic mutant, reading minds and echoing words people say or are about to say. It gets to him as his powers increase. He'd beat himself over the head... until he entered a coma. The younger brother thought he'd escaped, but his abilities increase and is worried he'll end up like his older brother.
Commentary: Callahan convinces young man to join brother's mind, with the mental or empathic assistance/support of bar flies, so the brothers become one. Callahan is quick on the uptake on what's happened.
Series Commentary:These early works represent the stories what first stirred Spider Robinson's popularity, earning him a John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Robinson comments that people have asked and even looked for where this bar is. Callahan's is Cheers before the show Cheers existed--"where everybody knows your name"--if more idealized. Strangers walk in, spill their woes; and the customers all share in the pain, if not ameliorate it somewhat.
Puns are a great part of this. Every regular gets the puns, which strains credibility somewhat. However, to break the camaraderie over not getting puns and extended tall tales would break the bond these people share. All work together. There's a rule in improv that you roll with the changes other actors make. Normal folk would try to break that story illusion. The regulars at Callahan's, though, play along. It's part of their mystical charm.