When I first read (and linked to) Paul Cornell's Hugo-nominated short story The Copenhagen Interpretation I was not aware that this was the 3rd instalment in a series centred around Major Jonathan Hamilton, a secret agent/spy/soldier in a British Army and a world very much unlike our own, with it's own technology (there's a slight whiff of Steampunk here), which I find rather fascinating (I suggested to Paul that he turn the story into a book, without even realizing it was a series of short stories already!).
Anyway, without further ado, here are the stories:
“The Transformist” is a tale about the concept of reality. The story is based in the first description of Frégoli Syndrome by Professor Paul Courbon and Dr. G. Fail in January 17th, 1927. Leopoldo Frégoli (Roma 1867 – Viareggio 1936) was an Italian transformer actor who was famous because he was capable to modify his physical and psychological appearance—specially his face—in a very fast way during his performances, he could play up to sixty characters in one performance. Frégoli wrote in his memoirs in 1936 that “Art is the Life and the Life is the Transformation.” Frégoli Syndrome consists of the conviction that some physical and psychological characteristics go through from one person to another. This syndrome occurs after right frontal lobe lesions secondarily to trauma, neurodegenerative diseases, or a stroke. In the tale some of the philosophical and historical ideas about reality, from Parmenides to Henri Bergson are described. Some of the events of Sarah Bernhardt’s life are included since this actress was part of the delirious ideation of the first patient diagnosed with this syndrome. Physical and psychological characteristics from this patient are described in the tale including his belief in “Mentalism.” The importance of the memory in the perception of reality is emphasized, so Marcel Proust becomes a central figure in the story.
I very much liked the lightness of touch and general cleverness, as well as the incessant name dropping and references to classic tropes and other works (Bene Tesseract, anyone?).
Entertaining stuff - we want more! The picture to the right is part of a drawing by Lee Sargent - I found it rather fitting for a story on a low-gravity alien world where the inhabitants go around on pogosticks (no Predators, though).
The story follows Phoenix, an experimental (post-?)human with special abilities/powers, created and modified as a test subject in Tower 7 by the 'Big Eye', all in the name of science and the various, not always verys salubrious uses it is being put to. It also talks about the meaning of 'home' and 'belonging' as well as the responsibilities that come with freedom.