Thursday 3 May 2018

Review: The Factchecker Only Rings Twice by Paul Di Filippo

This old story comes from Di Filippo’s collection Plumage from Pegasus and is available online at
The title grabbed me from the get-go,  immediately tickling my sense of humour and of intertextuality.  This is a short story about an established sci-fi writer now having to write under a new regime, COSTIVE, the Consortium of StoryTellers Insisting on Verisimilar Exactitude, which stifles writers’ creative and imaginative qualities.
On a frustrating day when writing is not coming easy, our narrator has a visitor, one Nelson Nibbler,  a COSTIVE operator, flashing his id and requiring revisions to a pre-regime change story  ****SPOILER ALERT**** The ridiculous changes required are outlined, and are met at first by surprise, then irony on our narrator’s part. Nibbler is totally unaware of the destruction his changes are making to the fabric of the story.
I loved the narrator’s explosion about what happened to a whole series of famous sci-fi writers after COSTIVE’s demands for scientific accuracy in speculative fiction – for example Stephan Baxter is writing for Coronation Street’.
Nibbler asks the author to supply peer reviewed citation to support his description of hyperspace as 'an uncanny otherworld, a violent conglomeration of sense-twisting hallucinatory whorls and streamers, a maelstrom of nauseating otherness.'  The narrator’s desperate cry of "Of course not! I made it all up for the sake of the story! The drama, man, the drama of it!"   is only met with the ultimate derision "As we thought. In that case, we're going to have to amend that passage to 'a hypothetical landscape whose qualitative essentials have yet to be determined.' "
His frustration finally get the better of him but once he deals with Nibbler, he returns to his computer and starts a new story with his poetical sensibilities renewed.
ashramblings verdict 5* I was completely with this narrator, both physically, emotionally and politically in the moment with Nibbler.Excellent.

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