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Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Callahan Chronicals: pt 3 Time Travelers Strictly Cash by Spider Robinson

Other discussions of The Callahan Chronicals:
  1. pt 1 Callahan's Crosstime Saloon
  2. pt 2 Callahan's Crosstime Saloon
  3. pt 4 Callahan's Secret
Summaries and Commentaries with spoilers:

  • Fivesight: First appeared in Omni. Reprinted by Ellen Datlow. Two regulars tell rather embarrassing personal stories where they learned better. A gal tells her story where Cass, her soon-to-be husband, helps prevent a migraine from an accident he foresaw. He has limits. If he tries to avoid an incident, something worse occurs. They marry and he side-steps or ameliorates various incidents. She's happy until her son Bobby died in a bus accident. He knew in advance but did nothing.
Commentary: She makes a date with a supermarket stockboy, and finds a gun brought into the house. Murder? Hers? the stockboy's? She runs to the bar. Suicide, they learn. They help her date escape with an alibi.

Jake finally tells his story--how he caused the death of his wife and child trying to save money doing his own breaks--to help her see he can empathize with her sorrow. In fact, it's the fifth anniversary, which was why other regulars told their embarrassing tales.

This is the first we get much background on our narrator, Jake. The title is a pun. Cass is likely a reference to Cassandra from Greek myth, who foretells events no one believes. 
  • Dog Day Evening: First appeared in Analog. It was up for the Hugo and Locus awards. A German Shepherd and a man enter bar.  The man wants to prove his dog can talk. Callahan allows the bet so long as it doesn't follow the famed joke [see below]. Callahan puts an apple in the man's mouth. And the dog talks.
Commentary: Not only does the dog talk, but the man is mute. So the dog talks for him (not the opposite the regulars had anticipated). They can't make a living without conning people. The Callahan regulars come up with jobs for both: Radio talk show for the dog and typing for the mute.

Play on the old joke about a talking dog that goes into a bar. The dog answers questions about what's on top of a house? "Roof" Who's the best baseball player? "Ruth," etc. The joke's barkeep throws the man and dog out, and the dog asks his owner, "Should I have said Jackie Robinson?" Robinson cleverly inverts this joke.

Title refers to a 1975 film, Dog Day Afternoon, about a botched bank heist to pay for a lover's sex change. Some loose correlation.
    • "Have You Heard the One...?"First appeared in Analog. It was up for the Locus and Analog Readers Poll awards. A Santa pretender--he says he's an alien in a Santa disguise since no one would question Santa--brings gifts: The Universal Panopticon. He has a machine the improves one's mood, etc. All at the cost of pennies.
    Commentary: No trick about the pennies. That's what he wants because he's actually a time-traveler who needs copper pennies to navigate his machine since the future lacks copper. His inventions, though, are all an illusion. Josie, the time-cop lady arrests him--a ten-dollar crime. She wants to prevent paradoxes. It's not clear why the time-cop gal wouldn't allow the guy pennies to time-travel [after all, she explains what he's doing to the past--the explanation of which, one would think, might create paradoxes as well], or why she waited to reveal herself, but so it is.

    Still a fun and semi-sophisticated tale, especially compared to the earlier stories. The protag-/antagonist feels something like the disruptive harlequin in Harlan Ellison's "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman."

    The last two stories present interesting scenarios where three people, backed into a corner, perform minor swindles. The dog and the mute not only get away with it despite the Callahan regulars' knowledge, but they also get full-time employment. Santa, on the other hand, gets hauled away. It's not clear why the different treatments. I point out a similar predicament that occurs at the end of  Starseed where two criminals attempt the same evil deeds yet get treated differently.
      • Mirror/rorriM Off the WallFirst appeared in Analog. There are no mirrors in Callahan's [to prevent vanity--ha, ha], but one appears, anyway. Meanwhile, where a stranger sits in the bar, the mirror shows the stool empty. The regulars move away, nervous about vampires. The stranger, Trebor, willingly trades great liquor for poor. Seeing a trick clock with the numbers reversed, Trebor tries to jump through the mirror. Callahan catches the fleeing figure for not paying his bill and paying with phony money.
      Commentary: Trebor is the reverse of Callahan's. He tricks the "Trebor" of Callahan's world to take the fall for a crime in a different dimension. He wants to swap irritating pollutants for non-irritants, but just as dangerous. Through a trick, they push him into the correct dimension. Interesting that they stopped the guy from exiting then forced him into it, minutes later. Still fun, though.

      "Pyotr's Story" nicely reverses the vampiric expectations.

        Series Commentary:
        Apart from "The Mick of Time," these may be my favorites in the series. Robinson combined idea well with milieu. He really hit his stride here.

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