Thursday, January 20, 2011

California King

Short Story by Michael Jasper and Greg van Eekhout
Originally published in Asimov's April/May 2005

The people of California watch their king confront his magical nemesis: his father. It's hard to tell how far apart this world is from modern day California. The king rides a Greyhound bus, fights mutants with his magical tattoos, and California is a desolate wasteland. So 2 out of 3 true to life.

The King is basically a superhero who tries to help the people of California in small ways, helping immigrants and abused women and whatnot. He mostly fails to ever change anything, but makes a valiant effort at it, and does do some good. But then his father wants to take back power and see The King deposed, so he sets an elaborate trap which has very little actual trap-ness to it, as is the way of super villains. And then shit gets interesting and magical. You get the impression his father did a whole lot less ripping out tongues of rapists and whatnot.

This is a weird, sort of surreal story where you're never really sure who has what sort or amount of power or what is really going on with all the machinations about things we don't understand. But the point is that the King wants to protect his people, and that the people need to stand up and take action for themselves too, rather than relying entirely on some superpowered regent. 3.5 out of 5 royals would like to trade themesongs with the California King.

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