REVIEW: “Doorways to Death” by Dick Yaeger

Review of Dick Yaeger, “Doorways to Death”, in Starward Tales II, edited by CB Droege (Manawaker Studio, 2017): 161-163 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

This tale is another Homeric retelling, albeit one much shorter than the other — it’s one of the shortest stories in the anthology. One of the advantages of retelling well-known myths is that it is a lot easier to build a lot of back story with far fewer words. For example, when the “Trojans” are mentioned, we know them, we know their war, and we know how it all started (and how it will end). Similarly with a casual reference to a horse. But this puts a large burden on the reader; those who don’t know the references will be lost. I think that is why this story worked for me, but the other very short story (“Hills Like Teeth”) didn’t, because I didn’t know the myth being adapted. Even so, this story was more a vignette than a story, in part because there was a lack of resolution at the end. The story opens with a question, and there was no answer. For that reason, it was a bit unsatisfying.

Another reason it was a bit unsatisfying was its use of the rather stale “men fight so that women are protected” trope. I also found it problematic that the male character is named — right in the very first line! — but that his female interlocutor was never anything more than “the woman”, and her role in the story appears to be merely a service one. If one is actually going to transpose a historic myth into a future setting, one needs to think very carefully before importing all the historic baggage that comes with. Not all of it needs to be retained.

(Also, note that the pagination given above is correct and the pagination in the table of contents in the book is not.)