Ex Cathedra (2006)
Ex Cathedra (2006)
I first came across Rebecca Maine in MZB's Sword And Sorceress anthology, with her short story "Plowshares." That story, and ten others make up the single author anthology Ex Cathedra. As a note for the curious, ex cathedra is the term that has come to define the idea of papal infallibility. Although none of the stories deals directly with papal infallibility, religion and faith underlie several of the stories in this collection.
The first story in the book, "Sarah, Who Speaks to the Lord," was one of my favorites. Although in many ways women have been given short shrift in the bible, the glimpses we have of these women show them as characters as fascinating as the sons and husbands and fathers about whom more was written. And of course Sarah, wife of the patriarch of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, is just as fascinating as Abraham. Here is a woman who has the daring to laugh at God--and the story "Sarah, Who Speaks with the Lord" gives Sarah's perception of the events of the events of her life. This is not a subservient woman who only follows the commands of her husband, but a woman who plotted and schemed to get what she wanted, and who was unafraid to laugh at God, and that is precisely hoe she is portrayed in this story.
"The Age of Maturity," the third story in the book, reminded me a bit of Charles de Lint's Memory and Dream, partially because there is a relationship between a male artist and his female apprentice that crosses the boundaries of propriety, and partially because of the understanding that there is magic in art--a magic that the great masters have.
I particularly liked the story "Things Left Undone," because it struck me as very real--the damage and hurt that only family can cause, combined with the fact that despite all, they remain family. Despite it's darkness, I found it a very positive story. (Okay, positive isn't quite the right word, but there it is anyway.)
Although I'm not the baseball fan that my brother is, I liked both the baseball stories, "They Still Play the Blues in Chicago," and "The Next Ted Williams." Okay, I guessed where the first story was going, but it was the getting there, not the destination that was important. The second story went off in a different direction than I expected, and still managed to amuse me.
Unsurprisingly, much of the science fiction stories in this collection were not my cup of tea. Although "Lockdown" was a very good story, it is also a terribly depressing one that left me with a substantial feeling of unease when I finished it. Much the same feeling one gets reading the news, really. The same goes for "Liquidation," which was also a very good story, but also terribly depressing one. I don't really think of myself as someone who always needs a "happily ever after," but stories that are very dark (almost in some ways horror) bother me in a visceral level, and with real life containing so much darkness, I suppose I prefer a greater does of lightness in the world I inhabit in my imagination. So maybe I do need a "HEA" more than I want to admit.
The stories "Returned Mail from EALTGELD" and "The Canterbury Path" were linked in that they occurred in the same world, and that a character from the first appeared in the second, but I much preferred "The Canterbury Path" because I found it more uplifting, despite it's darkness. These are also the other stories in which religion and faith play such a strong part.
All in all, this is an excellent collection--the writing is strong and the stories are good. Although I am less sure about her science fiction, I look forward to reading a longer fantasy work by Rebecca Maines.
(And my brain has now imploded trying to decide whether the title Ex Cathedra should be italicized or not--do two italic requirements cancel each other out? I hope not, because I'm too lazy to actually check.)