Ice and Other Stories by Candas Jane Dorsey

PS Publishing, 2018, 316 p.

 Ice and Other Stories  cover

Dorsey has been described as Canada’s Ursula K Le Guin. While her writing is good I wouldn’t go so far as to compare it with Le Guin’s. Overall in these stories I found there is something of a reserved quality to it.

In (Learning About) Machine Sex viewpoint character Angel writes the first computer progamme that can bring you to orgasm, with no need for all that love stuff. Despite also positing the need for human interaction the story presents a pretty bleak view of male sexuality. But that has ever been what it is.
Sleeping in a Box is nominally set on a Moon where everything is expensive and imported from Earth but the story is really about restrictions and how we all have to live with them.
Here Be Dragons is a metaphor for navigating through a life filled with obstacles. A woman exacts a small measure of revenge for the destruction of a domed habitat.
Presented as a historical report, Turtles All the Way Down tells of the development of a new scientific explanation for “reality faults,” cracks where the world opens and closes.
Dvorzjak Symphony is the story of a nightwatchwoman who has a clandestine lover on the premises.
A tale about how little we may know those nearest to us, in Death of a Dream dreams have become almost real places, monitored by the Dream Police. The narrator’s dream daughter is abducted by her ex-husband. Of course she sets out to find her.
The far future narrator of Living in Cities has returned to Earth and is giving to another returnee a tourist guide of the city she has curated.
In Going Home to Baïblanca, described under its title as a homage (femmage?) á Elisabeth Vonarburg, a human-like sea creature rescues a man from drowning only to find he’s not what he seemed.
Mapping sees a man abused in childhood trace patterns on his skin with razor blades before eventually seeing a psychiatrist.
Ice is set in a warmed world where our protagonist goes round blowing up partially drowned skyscrapers while holding the memories of a dream child under the influence of a drug named spike.
The lack of a question mark in the title of How Many Angels Can Dance forces a reading in which an explanation of angels dancing is necessary, which the story then goes on to provide.
Locks has the feel, but not the form, of a fairy story. There is a castle with locked rooms and a guardian, a forest, and someone under an enchantment. All you need really.
Despite its first eleven words Once Upon a Time…. is not a fairy- but instead a cryptic love story, which alludes to faery and metaphor in a meta-fictional commentary on the idea of story.
Blood From a Stone is a fantasy which sees the balance of a mother and her daughter’s isolated existence upset when a male water finder arrives.
In Mom and Mother Teresa the famous nun turns up on our narrator’s mother’s doorstep. Her mother’s Scots Presbyterian childhood, “with its message of duty, sacrifice, and unhappiness” had not been erased by adult years’ attendance at the local United Church but her own parents’ training made her offer the little woman tea and the second most comfortable bed in the house. Mistake. Mother Theresa moves in – complete with twenty-five alphabetically named orphans and a host of homeless folks. There is another twist to come.
In a deep dark winter of ice-fog, shortages – and electric cars – in “…the darkest evening of the year…” a group celebrates midwinter in the old ways, roasting meat, seeking the return of the light and coming together.
Written for Canada Reads 2006, A Trade in Futures reads like a hard-boiled detective story but its narrator is a poet laureate and the client who comes through the door wants his raison d’être to be found again for him. The text does though make the obvious joke about having a poetic licence.
The allusion in the title of Seven in a Boat, No Dog to Jerome K Jerome is somewhat misplaced. There are seven characters, possibly the last North American survivors of an apocalypse – certainly the last with memories of the old days – but there are at least two boats and the tone is not as light as might be expected.
First Contact may be just that but is more likely a metaphoric allusion to the fact that any initial intimate encounter between a woman and a man is laden with unknowabilities. This story is not for those with tender sensibilities as regards frank language and the sexual act.
In Dolly the Dog-Soldier the titular Dolly is part of a pack of uplifted dogs, able to speak and being trained for an assassination mission.
The Food of my People sees a young girl whose father has been badly injured in a rig blow-out taken in by a neighbour, Cubbie, after school. Attempting jigsaws seems to be instrumental in helping her dad recover. Cubbie is fond of home-cooking and there is a Dorsey family recipe for bread pudding at the end of the piece.
End of the Line, or, Desperate Russian Girls Looking for Love is another reflection on story, and on living life on-line beset by email spam.

Pedant’s corner:- I read an Advance Reading Copy (somewhat belatedly) so many of these may have been changed before publication. I note from the cover that the author’s first name – given as Candice on the ARC – has been. Elsewhere; a missing comma before a piece of direct speech (several times,) forbearers, (forebears,) Dvorzjak (okay it’s a character’s name; but the composer’s was spelled Dvořák,) “When I reached to door” (reached the door,) reflexion/reflexions (reflection/reflections) gaffer’s tape (gaffer tape,) Dr Jones’ (Dr Jones’s – used later,) Polariodä camera (Polaroid,) “because of the visor no-one would never see me again” (would ever see me again,) connexion (connection,) focussed (focused,) “heaven forefend” (forfend,) “a tinker’s dam” (damn,) “I took him in his my arms” (Dorsey may have intended this – to represent a disoriented state – but ‘my arms’ would not be such an opaque over-elaboration,) “not just cock into cunt into but into all molecules” (again perhaps intended, but again over-elaborated,) “all the pack are younger than I am” (all the pack is younger,) “ma chou” (even though the person being spoken to was female, the French word chou is masculine in gender; ‘mon chou’. Do Quebecois use “ma chou” in this way?) ambiance (ambience.) In the Story Notes; “this this story” (only one ‘this’ needed.)

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