The All-days of School-days

An extract from my gestalt real-time review of INTERZONE #248 (TTA Press) HERE:


The Hareton K-12 County School and Adult Extension – James Van Pelt
“A Bosnian Serb assassinated an Austrian duke and his wife on a Sunday. On Monday, the Ladies Quilters Society held their meeting in the Home Ec room the way they had the Monday before,…”

If I said this story is another ‘stasis’ one that spreads – as in the previous story – ad infinitum, ad astra, even ad absurdum, like a minimalist music piece, then I should add that it is enchanting rather than frightening, but the two stories are symbiotic.

This story tells of a school that is built, then gradually accrues architecturally and vestigially into a stunningly arrayed version of a Gormenghast-like edifice (but that attempt at analogy on my part does not give you the full visualisation of this edifice), a school building where we can explore the mazes of blueprinted rooms and corridors and service tunnels – with the past blending into the future, along with its scholarly denizens, janitors, teachers, children, as they come and go but effectively stay – while the surrounding reality morphs imperceptibly from our own recognisable world history into a futuristic (often dangerous) one….

But that gives no real idea of the edgy enchantment of this seemingly everlasting quilt of a story, a story that one could easily expect to become a classic for future anthologies, a story that contains the concept of one’s schooldays’ ability to remain one’s all-days (creating an edifice of eternal memory as the only real landmark in one’s life), combining that concept skilfully with some wonderful images – and with characters who pass through the minimalist music like dreams, some deceptively hard and fast, others more vague, dancing at the school dance inside, say, a ‘butterfly pavilion’: a dance that this Van Pelt fiction conceivably has with you the reader, a dance that has the hand’s width of God between – not to divide you from the fiction: but simply to bring you closer.

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