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Prom Night
Nancy Springer
DAW Books, 309 pages


Luis Royo
Prom Night
Nancy Springer
Nancy Springer has written some 30 novels, spanning all generations -- adults, young adults and children. Also a prolific author of non-fiction, novellas, short stories and poetry, Springer has won honours and awards such as the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allen Poe Award and the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. She has been nominated for the Hugo Award, the World Fantasy Award and the Nebula Award. She works as an instructor of creative writing with York College of Pennsylvania.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: I Am Mordred: A Tale from Camelot
SF Site Review: Fair Peril
Review: Larque on the Wing

Past Feature Reviews
A review by A.L. Sirois

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When you think about pop music of the 50s and 60s, there are a tremendous number of titles having to do with love, from Milly Small's silly "My Boy Lollipop" to the Beatles wistful "And I Love Her." We can agree that the songwriters working in those days did their level best to cover all aspects of the teenage romantic experience. The odd thing is, not one song that I can remember has anything to do with a prom. I was born in 1950, and was very much a part of the rock culture, being a musician and all (and yes, I went to my senior prom); but I cannot recall one song that even mentions the prom. Well, now I'm curious. If anyone out there knows of a song from that era with the prom as its subject, please email me.

There being a distinct lack of prom-related material in the (musical) popular culture, the marketing geniuses at DAW have come up with this anthology to fill the gap. I don't know how these astute decisions get made. Wiser heads than mine obviously run these companies.

Be that as it may, we have here an anthology of stories whose themes all revolve around that alleged benchmark of teenage experience, the prom. I suspect an anthology about tattoos is next, but no matter.

It's a pretty thick anthology, which may seem surprising given the subject matter. How much mileage can you get out of a theme like "prom night," after all? Twenty-two writers have offerings in Prom Night. The table of contents includes luminaries such as Fred Saberhagen, Dave Smeds and Lawrence Watt-Evans to lesser-known writers such as Tippi Blevins, Lisa Silverthorne and Jenn Reese. As you might expect, it's a mixed bag.

Most of these tales fall into the fantasy genre, but there are one or two SF entries. Most notable among these is the Saberhagen story, "The Senior Prom," which describes an alternate-world in which the sexual revolution took root with a vengeance, and abstaining from sex is frowned upon as the ultimate perversion. A neat little turnabout.

Most of the pieces in Prom Night are not as satisfying (or as scary) as the Saberhagen piece. Many of them tend toward a sort of arch humour that melts away almost as soon as the story is done. Among the better ones, "A Touch, A Kiss, A Rose" by Alan Rodgers really doesn't seem to be science fiction or fantasy, but it's nicely written with distinct characters. "Peggy Sue Got Slobbered" not only has a terrible title, it's no better than a shaggy dog story, rather like Tim Waggoner's "Meeting Dad," which is actually more of a shaggy cock story.

"Omar's One True Love" by Gary Jonas is a halfway decent zombie story, marred by an unsatisfying ending. Michael Hemmingston's "Solid Memories Have the Lifespan of Tulips and Sunflowers" drags in a UFO for some reason that is never clear to me, but it's a pretty good story anyway.

Among the rest of the stories, the standout offerings are from Richard Parks, H. Turnip Smith (that's gotta be a pen name, right?), Stephen Gresham, Tippi Blevins, Lisa Silverthorne and Jenn Reese. I liked the Smith story best, about a fat kid taunted and humiliated by his classmates. There really isn't any fantasy or science fiction content to this tale, but the characters stand out. Since high school is an experience common to most of us, it's easy, even after a gap of years, to slip back there and look at some of those old feelings. Were you the fat kid? Did you make fun of the fat kid?

A number of these stories are about losers or marginalized teens who get the upper hand. In the wake of the Colorado shootings, the volume takes on something of a sad, ironic aura, though there is nothing in it that would specifically bring Columbine to mind. Perhaps the point is that little societal rites of passage like the prom have lost more than just their relevance. They have lost their innocence, too -- and in a way that's a shame. No one really gives much of a damn about the prom anymore. This volume won't change that. But it may help to cast a little light on certain aspects of the teen experience that we all might do well to recall.

Copyright © 1999 by A.L. Sirois

A.L. Sirois walks the walk, too. He's a longtime member of SFWA and currently serves the organization as webmaster for the SFWA BULLETIN. His personal site is at http://www.w3pg.com/jazzpolice.


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