Asimov’s: July 2008
Nominated for the Nebula Award: Novelette
Does knowing the barest hint of the author’s real life influence one’s reading of a story? I think it does, and it can color that reading to the point that you can’t be sure if your reading is fully textual or inferred from what little you know of the author. Is the author saying what you think he is saying? Is the story a commentary on his real life or, not?
That’s what I think about when reading “Vinegar Peace”. Very early on the reader is told
If you know that Michael Bishop’s son Jamie was killed in 2007, how do you read this story? Do you read it straight, or is metaphor for the experience of a grieving parent? Is it fair to read “Vinegar Peace” in that manner?
That’s why they call it a Wrong-Way, Used-Adult Orphanage, he says. You get into one not because you’ve lost a parent. Your last living child has to die.
Note that I’m talking around the story. There’s a reason for that. As a story, divorced from any wondering about where it came from, I was completely disinterested in “Vinegar Peace”. I don’t see the appeal or what the Nebula nominators saw in the story, and the weird journey through that new adult orphanage failed to peak my interest.
So, beyond acknowledging the existence of the story on the Nebula ballot, and perhaps unfairly overthinking how “Vinegar Peace” relates to the author’s personal loss and grief (for which Mr. Bishop has my deepest sympathies), I find nothing to say *about* the story itself. All of my questions and thoughts circle the story without getting at the actual text because I have no interest in the text.