In Days to Come by Lisa Timpf, Hiraeth Publishing, 2022, www.hiraethsffh.com. 79 pp. softcover $10.00.
Review by Sandra J. Lindow
Lisa Timpf is a prolific writer of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Her insightful reviews are available in Star*line and on the SpecPo Blog. In Days to Come is a collection of speculative haibun. The classical haibun, as first envisioned by Japanese master poet Matsuo Basho, is a short diary entry followed by a haiku that is a deeper dive into the underlying meaning of the event described. Although these haiku may initially seem divergent from the prose, closer reading reveals how they respond with an insight that creates an organic whole. Classical Haibun are often travelogues reflecting real events while speculative haibun are journeys into the imagination. In Days to Come consists of forty-two haibun divided into four sections: Section 1, “Terra, Terra,” consists of poems set on earth. Section 2, “Looming Shadows”, ventures into various ecological and apocalyptic threats. Section 3, “Alien Encounters” and Section 4, “New Worlds” boldly enter science fictional universes where no classical haibun has gone before, possibly reflecting Timpf’s early fascination with Star Trek episodes. Most are of a length to be considered flash fiction or short, short stories told in one or two pages.
Timpf began her career as a sportswriter for college newspapers, a journalistic influence seen throughout the collection but initially in the dark humor of “After the Game” where “Zombie Night at the ball park” results in a batter losing his right foot while rounding second, a “few cryptic relics” left on the field, and
fans getting carried away—
All is not humor, however, many of Timpf’s haibun have a bittersweet emotional center. “She Listens,” for instance, describes a cyborged great grandma who is given a totally new android body “(50 year warranty, barring some exclusions)” which concludes
she listens to them breathe
while she does not
and wonders, what have I done?
Other haibun reflect considerable pessimism regarding humanity’s potential for long-term survival. “High Noon” reconsiders the Doomsday clock where high noon becomes the dangerous time rather than midnight:
sun begins its downward trek—
shadows slide toward
“The Horsemen Wait” expands on the Doomsday clock idea. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse play cards in the stable while the clock ticks toward an inevitable conclusion. Equally chilling is “Magic Touch” where customers at a Tardis-like sports store pay physically to gain enhanced equipment, like cigarettes, a kind of Faustian bargain:
temptation extends its tentacles—
can be addictive
“In Days to Come” is a future police procedural that ties in with the Doomsday clock theme. Like the other poems in the “Alien Encounters” section, events become horrific due to patterns long in motion:
understanding in the end,
a fly’s fruitless panic
as the spider draws near
In all there are no super heroes, just ordinary folks doing ordinary work in times where the horrific uncontrollable looms just around the corner.
“New Worlds,” the final section, provides contemporary takes on classical SF tropes such as colony ships and exploratory missions. Once again ordinary people are faced with difficult choices and considerable loss. “What Must Be Done” is reminiscent of Le Guin. “The Valkyries Ride On” ends tragically with Wagner’s triumphant strains and the scent of her “mother’s cold cream” while “It Wasn’t” suggests that sexism is impossible to avoid even in the final frontier.
Timpf is adept at creating finely honed tales that combine human sensory experience with speculative thought. Readers who grew up reading SF and watching old movies will enjoy a sense of nostalgia reading these haibun. Those new to the field will find In Days To Come an engaging introduction to SFF”s important thematic considerations. Highly recommended.
Sandra Lindow has served as Vice President and Acting President of SFPA. Her poetry has been seen in various markets including Asimov’s, Star*Line, Dreams and Nightmares, Dwarf Stars, and the Rhysling Anthologies. Her spec related editing includes Dwarf Stars, Eye to the Telescope, and most recently the Rhysling winners anthology, Alchemy of Stars II. She lives on a hilltop in Menomonie, Wisconsin where she waits out the pandemic and attempts various strategies to keep varmints from eating her vegetables and perennials.
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