EPS Review #142 - The Alchemical Marriage of Alistair Crompton

The Alchemical Marriage of Alistair Crompton, by Robert Sheckley, Sphere 1978, 191pp.

An odd one. Humorous Science Fiction can be tiresome. But I had never heard of Sheckley, and found it funny. Apparently he influenced Douglas Adams, and nobody was funnier than Douglas Adams. The very light story line is about a man who had multiple personalities separated from his brain at birth and is now trying to rejoin them all.

Crompton stared at Loomis with a certain horror. He found it , difficult to believe that this corrupt, self-satisfied seducer was a part of him, a potentiality of his own psyche. He would have been glad to turn away from Loomis and avoid the whole distasteful business of sex. But it could not be: an inscrutable destiny had proclaimed that even the most lucid and clearest - thinking men must still live with that debased aspect of l themselves, must come to terms (by sublimation, if possible!) with the shameful male instinct to fuck a lot of women and have a lot of laughs and get paid a lot of money for doing nothing.

Supposedly Sheckley also influenced the great Philip K Dick. Certainly they shared the same interest in Californian psychology.

Loomis emoted at the machine, and the machine translated his emotions into colours, forms, rhythms, into chanted verse, into dance-forms danced by elegant puppets, into gay lilting songs and keening chants, into the vastness of grey ocean and black night, and into bleeding purple-edged sunsets suffused with sunburnt laughter and shaken by tremors of impotent rage. Misty, multicoloured scenes came into focus, filled with odd wispy people who enacted dramas of curious import; and in these various representaglia, as they were technically called, one could feel the childhood dreams of the man, his first bewildering sexual cravings, his long and agonized school days, his first love on his second summer holiday, and much, much more, all flowing to the present, woven and intertwined in all of the art-forms available in this series (except for soapbubble sculpture, a brand-new feature available only with the new Mark V Wurlitzer-Venco) and coming at last to the brilliant and paradoxical coda in which all the various elements were subordinated to their proper place in the ensemble of qualities that made up the projected image of the man, yet each highlighting and evoking the individuality of the others, and thus bringing out -- by default, as it were -- its own proper uniqueness. And so it ended and the two men were silent for a time.

At last Loomis said, 'What do you think? Be completely frank; politeness is misplaced at a time like this.'

'Well then,' Crompton said, 'I must tell you that it is exactly what everyone plays on their Self-Expression Machines.'

'I see,' 'Loomis said, frigidly, pinching his nose in a gesture of inner pain.

The story would suit anyone in the mood for this kind of thing, and I will willingly read more by the author if I come across it.

Paul wrote: Have you read kim stanley robinson. I read red/green/blue mars. red was annoying but green was so good that I read blue which was annoying. In baltimore I picked up The Years of Rice and Salt, which is a 2002 book he wrote about 99% of europe being wiped out by plague in about 700 and so the world ends up with china, islam, and an alliance between india and the native american leagues goin at it. Sounds great eh? But it is really tedious just like his other books. If it catches your eye as it caught mine, skip. But in other news, I'm watching season 1 of Lost (yeah, like, "finally" right?) which is pretty good. And season 3 of battlestar gallactica demonstrates that bsg is far and above the best show on television outside of deadwood.

I replied: I have! Red was annoying indeed, though I liked the practical aspect of colonising Mars. I continued through Green despite annoyance, but I can't remember if I slogged on to Blue. I made a mental note to avoid him after that, and I never liked post-apocalyptic stories much anyway. Actually, I had never heard of "Lost" until just now. Nor "Deadwood". I have heard of BSG but never watched an episode. Maybe I am spending too much time on YouTube instead.