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Seven Threads
Susan J. Boulton and Dan Bieger
Equilibrium Books, 209 pages


Rosemary MacDonald
Seven Threads
Susan J. Boulton
Born in Staffordshire, England, Susan J. Bolton and spent her childhood roaming round a small village and the surrounding countryside, day dreaming (an affliction she has suffered from ever since) when she didn't have to attend school. Susan married a gentleman in every sense of the word and finally got round to producing two children, being classed by the medical profession at the time as a geriatric mother, and started writing when she hit her second childhood, deciding it was time to put the daydreams down on paper.

Dan Bieger
Dan Bieger spent 17 years preparing to join the US Army, 20 years serving, and now has more time retired than he spent on active duty. He came home from one war to find a lady willing to share her life with him, and watched two other wars from the sidelines. Dan has managed programs that helped keep man in space, kept military systems working, and automated decision-based training. Children and grandchildren later, he is still wondering what he is going to be when he grows up.

Publisher

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

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As it suggests, Seven Threads collects 7 tales of fantasy and science fiction with strong elements of male-female romance, or other intense interpersonal relationships (hunter-hunted, father-son). This book is itself apparently the result of the blossoming of a trans-Atlantic Internet-mediated interpersonal relationship. With the advent of role playing games and quasi-instantaneous communication, it is now possible for two people to act out a story by e-mail or chat service, capturing a certain spontaneity that was perhaps absent in earlier times. For example, in the late 19th century, the French writing team of authors Alexandre Chatrian and Émile Erckmann, writing as Erckmann-Chatrian, brought us a number of excellent supernatural tales (e.g. The Invisible Eye) as well as numerous bestselling historical novels. Given the lack of rapid communication, the two had a specific understanding: they would work out the plot outline together, Erckmann would go off to rural Alsace and write alone, then send the manuscript back to Chatrian in Paris, who would arrange for its publication. Even in the 40s, when the married couple of C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner wrote under the pseudonyms of Lewis Padgett or Lawrence O'Donnell, a unified manuscript was likely produced in a similar manner, though the two cohabited.

Many of the stories in Seven Threads are presented by two characters alternatively reviewing the action and interplay from their point of view, lending a very different feel to the narrative than a first or third person narrative. The authors' introduction doesn't really address the question as to who plays what parts, though one assumes Mr. Bieger to "play" the male characters, and Ms. Boulton the female ones. Also, it addresses neither whether for any sort of "rule book" and general theme was developed beforehand, nor what degree of "post-production" there was. Still one does get the impression of viewing events from distinct perspectives, allowing a sort of view of how both sides of the interpersonal relationship grows or wanes.

While entertaining and written clearly and concisely, Seven Threads is clearly written by, about and for mature adults, not in the sense of there being any graphic sexuality (there isn't any), but rather in that the stories are explorations of how interpersonal relationships develop, particularly romantic ones, written from a point of view of experience and even wistfulness at times. This adult and perhaps drawn-from-experience knowledge that successful long term male-female relationships -- i.e. marriage -- aren't always perfectly smooth and without discord, but have a capacity to overcome such obstacles through the powerful bonds of a committed relationship is the theme of "The Bus," in which angelic agents of "good" and "evil" work to twist the relationship of an estranged couple and their child to their own ends. In "The Forum" -- perhaps a cautionary tale about the risk of close emotional involvement within the anonymity of the web-forums/chats -- a web-based emotion-vampire stalks and kills romantic couples formed within a group of cyber-friends. In "Feathers," set in a more standard heroic fantasy milieu, a feisty young female translator and a hardened killer-mage find love, notwithstanding their seemingly diametrically opposed natures. In "Charlie's Story," two mid-fifties adults discover each other while unearthing a long-ago family mystery that haunts them both in different ways. This story, perhaps the best in the collection, is, given the background of the authors, seemingly far more immediately personal, far less role playing and far more drawn from personal hopes and dreams. The last tale, "The Barge," takes place during a pilgrimage to the shrine of a Shiva-like goddess, both creatrix and destroyer, and the beginning of a shift from a matriarchal to a patriarchical godhead. It explores and affirms the need for both male and female elements in any faith structure.

Seven Threads is a book that while clearly readable by a teenager or young adult, brings along baggage that might seem trivial to such readers, but would likely resonate with more mature readers, particularly women. Similarly, while the stories in Seven Threads are nominally fantasy, science-fiction or supernatural in nature, here these literary forms serve far more as a medium in which to couch wisdom about relationships, than any particular genre of imaginative fiction.

Copyright © 2004 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and maintains a site reflecting his tastes in imaginative literature.


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