I think Lavie Tidhar had a pretty good year for short fiction; there was “The Dying World” at Clarkesworld, “Spider’s Moon” at Futurismic, and of course “The Shangri-La Affair” at Strange Horizons. All extremely stylish, poised stories, deft with their chosen tropes. This is Tidhar’s best 2009 story, though, for my money.
The polish is still there, but “Funny Pages” feels like it has more going on underneath. It’s a superhero tale, set in Israel — a little like something Jonathan Lethem might have written — and does everything you would expect and hope a modern prose superhero tale set in Israel would do. It’s grounded in the day-to-day mundane, with superheroes facing romantic entanglements and unpaid bills; its superpowers are inventive (“Orchestra is music, Orchestra is a weave of notes: Tank can never see her face, her figure, only hear her, like thousands of pirate radio stations clashing with each other”); it is knowing in its invocation of cliche (the supervillain: “The Doctor, hawk-nosed, white hair combed back, a thick German accent he’d never quite lost [...] ‘I will show them! I will show the world!’”); it is often funny; it is political; and it makes good use of comic-script-style back and forth:
The Prime Minister: “You’re a superhero! It’s your job to deal with this stuff!
Solomon2: “Job? I work in hi-tech, with all due respect. Fighting crime doesn’t pay the mortgage. Plus, well …”
PM: “Well what?”
Solomon2: “This is beyond the realm of, well, strictly speaking, crime, now.”
PM: “What are you talking about?”
Solomon2: “It’s become … political.”
PM: “You’re damn right it’s political!”
Solomon2: “Ah, but there lies, as they say, the rub. We’re strictly non-political. Traditional crime only. I don’t think it’s right for us to interfere.”
PM: “But Dr. Meshugeh is!”
Solomon2 shrugs: “Supervillains have different standards.”