Nominated for the Nebula Award: Novelette
“Dark Rooms” is the story of Nathan Stevens, a man who met Georges Melies in 1896, befriended Georges, stole one of his ideas about early movie-making, and became a success in Ameirca. “Dark Rooms” is told from the increasingly paranoid perspective of Stevens (mirroring the letters he receives from Melies). The story opens with a young Stevens having seen his first motion picture and the developing friendship between Stevens and Melies but quickly moves to the magic of movies and how time alters memory.
This is only nominally a science fiction / fantasy story (there are a couple of questions throughout the story as to what exactly Melies is capable of when around Stevens), but by the end “Dark Rooms” is a satisfying story. There is no flash to Goldstein’s storytelling, and this isn’t a story (exactly) about rivalry, but it is a story about the dawn of moviemaking and perhaps how Edison and Hollywood became successful and famous – from the intellectual theft of Melies. Except even that isn’t quite right because the story presents the theft as a gesture of friendship. It is what came next that was the theft.
It’s an intellectually and emotionally interesting story that is never overwhelmed by technical details. “Dark Rooms” is about the people.
I question whether this is, in fact, a SFF story or whether it should have garnered a SFF nomination, but beyond that – decent story. I doubt, at this point, that I will view it as a favorite in the novelette category. If I do, this would be a weak category, but as an individual story, it’s good enough. Damned with faint praise? Perhaps.