Thursday, 5 March 2015

"Doctor Diablo Goes Through The Motions" by Saladin Ahmed

I'm breaking from my Thursday posts reviewing science fiction I found on Project Gutenberg, mostly short stories. I'll get back to it next week. But in the meantime, I read a science fiction short story this week that is only a few years old, but I liked it a lot.

I feel bad that I haven't read any Saladin Ahmed yet. Or hadn't, until this story crossed my plate. I follow him on twitter, I've heard good things about his book. The problem is, if you took the list of "things I would like to read," it would easily stretch for several blocks, and so, saying I'd like to read a book is about as useful as saying I'd like to go to the Moon. I would, but it's not going to happen any time soon.

(If you add in books and other media other people think I should read and continually bother me about whether or not I've gotten to them yet, the list gets even longer. That's why I created the recommended by friends list, so people who want me to read something can both know that I will eventually, and that it might take a while.)

I knew his novel would come up on my read of the Hugo nominees, eventually, and didn't do much more about it. But while I was continuing my tour of a friend's Kindle this week, I came across this short story packaged in a Hugo bundle from 2010. (Looks like that's one of the years Ahmed was nominated for the John W. Campbell Award.)

It's very short, and I enjoyed it a whole ton. It feels like there have been a lot of "life from the viewpoint of the supervillains" recently, or seriously, maybe that's just my life. There's Doctor Horrible, of course. On a more personal note, though, there's the long-running PrimeTime Adventures my friend Rob ran for us a few years ago, in which we were not very villainous supervillains, fighting the superhero pawns of a big evil corporation. Then there's the short teaser script my husband wrote for fun, with a Goodfellas take on the supervillain blue collar neighbourhood.

What I'm saying is, the idea about supervillains who are more regular joes than you might think has been rattling around in my brain for a while, and so that made this even more fun to read. It's well written, it's entertaining, but it's also razor sharp when it comes to race and gender and crime, and how the actions of real-life superheroes might do more to feed the prison-industrial complex than anything else.

We have the roles, and we play the parts, but Doctor Diablo sees a glimpse of making a real difference, in ways that are big and flashy and fighting. Except that the big flash fight scene always steals the day.

This one's online at Strange Horizons. Check it out. 

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