. . . Molly Gloss

. . .

The Dazzle of Day by Molly Gloss

Molly Gloss is an American who writes about frontiers. This grants her two genres: the western (subgenre: Little House on the Prairie) and science fiction (subgenre: interplanetary colonization). And it grants us a contrast between genre as incitement and genre as marketing.

Some writing lights out for the territory; Gloss's is about the painful thud and roll when you land. Far from fetishizing freedom as an end, Gloss tends to keep any pioneering impulse offstage. Decision making isn't a dramatic climax; it's something you're forced into and then something you deal with. No choice but Hobson's.

Frontiers fascinate Gloss with chanciness and isolation: with their unforeseeable dangers, their backbreaking chores, their lack of a dependable support system. Life is what happens while you're dealing with emergencies. Frontier narratives provide a full lifetime.

Her first novel is one of the better westerns I've read since Elmore Leonard made like Coogan's Bluff (with Carol Emshwiller still tops and with Cormac McCarthy a pony whose one trick is to hoop-la! vomit blood). But The Dazzle of Day partners Gloss's leanings most sympathetically:

If anything, the book suffers from an embarrassment of obstacles: Gloss can resolve them only by a deus ex machina. A distinctly and realistically Quaker machina, but still a bit of a shock....

Those familiar with the short story venues and literary community of science fiction will recognize Gloss's success in using the tools of the genre. (Le Guin is the standard comparison, but for me Maureen McHugh seems closer.) Those familiar with the commercial market of science fiction won't be surprised by her novel's reception. Genre buyers may thrill at hairsbreadth escapes and respect whitebeard wizards and tolerate Lazarus Long's teeny-bopping, but geriatric pains and unsuccessful rescue missions aren't on their shopping list.

So Magic Realism, ho!


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