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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Callahan Chronicals: pt 2 Callahan's Crosstime Saloon by Spider Robinson

Other discussions of The Callahan Chronicals:
  1. pt 1 Callahan's Crosstime Saloon
  2. pt 3 Time Travelers Strictly Cash 
  3. pt 4 Callahan's Secret
Summaries and Commentaries with spoilers:
  • Law of Conservation of Pain: First appeared in Vertex. The meddler, a real time-traveler from the future [1995] arrives at 1974 Callahan's. He wants to save Bobbie Joy, a painful singer to save her from the destruction of the life, to spare her from future pain, which would also keep her from writing a famous song.
Commentary: Consequences of his altering time may be that pain shows up. The bar flies come up with a peaceful solution to killing the cop that will rape Bobbie Joy. The time-traveling belt given to bar to destroy... although why he didn't do it himself isn't explained.
  • Just Dessert: Young men drink ungodly amounts of alcohol. Suddenly the ugly one barfs. His buddies eat it. 
Commentary: Not SF. The barf is beef stew. Apparently, the act angers the barkeep. Doc, who guessed the outcome, happens to have a bottle of ipecac and slipped some to the boys. 
  • "A Voice Is Heard in Ramah...”: First appeared in Analog. A woman, Rachel, shows up at Callahan's. She puns and is accepted by the bar flies. She turns out to have lived 232 years. She weeps when she hears a toast to motherhood.
Commentary: She says she's more aware of death since she's lived longer. Her case seems hopeless until Eddie offers that she clones via cryonics. This one has a great central conceit that could have used a few more specifics and development.

The title quote comes from Jeremiah 31:15 and Matthew 2:18: "A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more." The context of Matthew is Harrod's slaughter of Jewish boys to kill, fulfilling Jeremiah's prophecy. Jeremiah, employing the voice of God, concludes: "Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded.... They will return from the land of the enemy."
  • Unnatural Causes: First appeared in Analog. Michael Finn returns, says he's been working in agriculture, using his advanced eyesight, which sees into the IR range. Michael spots an alien like himself. Tony, a Vietnam vet, deals with his past: how he became a cold killer. 
Commentary: Tony turns around after hearing his pacifist buddy, Steve, had been killed in a military prison. Trancedental meditation and Callahan's turned him around. Meanwhile, the alien asks for absolution for creating dissension among the humans to breed them for chow (humans did the same with their food). Earth is a game preserve. But without actions, without penance, none in Callahan's would forgive him.
  • Wonderful Conspiracy: People come to Callahan's when they need to. The regulars actually pay attention to their families
Commentary: Not really a story but rather a talk of how different a bar this is. It presents one of two references to Fredric Brown's "The Weapon" [link to discussion].
Series Commentary:
Explanations spring up, saying that Callahan's doesn't create alcoholism, but it's opposite: moderation, or even abstinence from drink altogether. Callahan doesn't allow drunkenness, at least not without a cab. One suspects that Robinson might have received complaints about glorifying alcohol and addressed the matter as stated above.

These stories extend the series' camaraderie. They have a few surprises and unusual circumstances, but they're the nadir apart from "Unnatural Causes" which provides a nice contrast to "The Guy with the Eyes." Other stories have interesting concepts, but don't build them enough. The series improves after this.

The stories have a rhythm to them. 1) Group shenanigans: jokes, puns, tall tales; 2) newcomer looks bummed and is asked why; 3) newcomer's tale presented; 4) Group resolves problem; 5) Brief joke/pun related to newcomer (sometimes). This might be related to 1) status quo, 2) inciting incident, 3) conflict, 4) resolution, 5) denouement. However, these stories tend to linger on step 1. Expanding the sense of camaraderie is clearly seen as critical as the presenting and solving the problem itself.

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