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Bewildering Stories

The Critics’ Corner

A Mind-Bending Trip

by Bill Bowler

Here With Me Now,” in issue 308, is written in Ian Cordingley’s typically convoluted, shifting, allusive narrative mode. Time and character, tense and person are fragmented, and the reader gets only glimpses. It’s like listening to a distant song.

There are four characters: Brian (the first person narrator), Sandra, Karl, and the “you” at the end (apparently the alien consciousness that has placed the Gift and absorbed Brian).

There are five scenes that zigzag through time:

  1. Present/flashback/present: We are with the narrator Brian at the site where the Gift has crashed on Titan.

  2. Future (two years after the crash): Sandra and Karl en route to the Beacon, the original site of the Gift.

  3. Past: Brian and Sanrda before Brian leaves for space.

  4. Future (which morphs into the present): Picks up where scene 2 left off; Sandra and Karl at the Beacon.

  5. Future, which is the new present: Continues where scene 4 left off. Brian, now absorbed into the alien consciousness that brought the Gift, observes Sandra and Karl at the Beacon site.

In addition to the shifting chronology, the pronouns shift throughout the text so that ”I” can be Brian, or it can suddenly refer to Karl, as when he is speaking at the beginning of Scene 2. “You” shifts, in a similar manner from scene to scene. In the end, ”you” is the alien consciousness as addressed by Brian.

The story, blending past, present and future, has a circular structure, beginning and ending with the same line: “I know what’s going to happen.” The story certainly has the potential to confuse the reader. It also has the potential to take the reader on a rather mind-bending little trip.

Copyright © 2008 by Bill Bowler

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