Thursday, February 24, 2005

Soup Noir by Robin Hathaway

“Soup Noir” by Robin Hathaway, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, March/April 2005

I can’t for the life of me understand why EQMM published this story. Don’t get me wrong; the writing itself is fine, smooth and easy to read. It’s the plot, if one can call it that. This story is the equivalent of the science fiction story where people land on some benighted planet and, after sufficient travail, most of it contrived, discover that they are on Earth. Science fiction magazines stopped publishing stories like that 30 years ago. In fact they now specifically prohibit that type of story in their guidelines. Would that EQMM had done so.

The story begins with a woman doing her grocery shopping. She is looking for a particular brand of soup (Campbells) which she describes by the colors on the label. Only she discovers that she can’t see any colors. Everything is in black-and-white. Throughout the story we are reminded that she is a fan of the old noir films. She discovers that she isn’t the only one seeing in black-and-white. Everyone else is too, only they don’t think it is strange.

The story progresses, sort of, with no crime and apparently no potential for crime until the final two paragraphs. Whereupon we are given the mystery (?) equivalent to the science fiction stories described above.

I know the author was just having a little fun, but some kinds of fun should be kept private.

In short, EQMM, please revise your guidelines.