Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Scarecrow’s Boy by Michael Swanwick

Michael Swanwick is one of the best short fiction writers in the science fiction genre and this story does not disappoint. The main character is the scarecrow, an obsolete household robot, left outside to keep the birds away. The reference, of course, is to The Wizard of Oz. Here Swanwick subverts the idealized version of childhood, especially prominent in the film version, with a gritty, troubling future.

Two childhoods are examined: the boy running for his life who the scarecrow decides to help, and the boyhood of the scarecrow’s actual owner. The scarecrow has watched his owner grow from a fun-loving innocent youth to a depraved, ruthless adult. The scarecrow must decide to which boy he owes his loyalty.

As with many Swanwick stories it can be read on more than one level, here both as a tightly wound suspenseful thrill ride and as a darkly humorous tale. When the scarecrow utters the line, “We are as God and Sony made us,” it lifts the story to a mordantly funny tone that won me over completely.

“The Scarecrow’s Boy” by Michael Swanwick first appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction, October/November 2008
Link: Year’s Best SF 14 summation and table of contents

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