Danger Music, Stepan Chapman

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Danger Music, Stepan Chapman, The Ministry of Whimsy Press, 1996, no ISBN, $2.99, 39pp.

This is a “no frills chapbook” from The Ministry of Whimsy Press, the same small press that brought out Chapman’s Philip K. Dick Award-winning novel, The Troika. I had a real hard time with that book, losing myself in the surrealistic waves of what might be virtual reality or science fiction or what-I-don’t-know. The stories here–ten in all–are much easier to grasp, and easier to let go of because of their short length, as well.

Chapman is a wizard of invention and satire. From the first story, “Scheherazarr,” in which the Arabian Nights meta-tale is gender flipped and the young male storyteller has only prepared for one night, not a thousand, you see some of Chapman’s interests: talking about fiction (the reader is addressed in the story), gender equality, and fictional realism (that is, examining the underlying tale for its unbelievability by showing the “true” reality of what might happen). The satire is even better in “High Cocoalorum at the E.I.A.” This story precedes Al Gore’s remaking government plans and pokes an extremely sharp stick at those agencies that try to obfuscate reality through renaming the problems.

My favorite story here, though, is “The Heaven of the Animators.” God is in his heaven, but he only wants to watch cartoons, and so the world goes to hell (literally), except for Los Angeles and Japan, where God has them working overtime to bring him the best and the brightest of moving pictures. A damning indictment of hierarchy, consumerism, and religion, all in one little story. I think I’m jealous.

[Finished May 1999]

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