Birthday Reviews: Terry Bisson’s “Scout’s Honor”
Cover by John Picacio
Terry Bisson was born on February 12, 1942. In addition to writing his only original novels and short stories, including Fire on the Mountain, Voyage to the Red Planet, and The Pickup Artist, Bisson has written several media tie-in novels and completed Walter Miller, Jr.’s Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman.
He has won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story twice, for “Bears Discover Fire” and for “macs.” Both stories also won the Locus Poll. “Bears Discover Fire” also received the Hugo Award for Best Short Story and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. “macs” received the Grand Prix l’Imaginaire and the Xatafi-Cyberdark Awards for translations. In 1993, Bisson received the Phoenix Award from DeepSouthCon.
“Scout’s Honor” was first purchased by Ellen Datlow for the online ‘zine Sci Fiction, where it appeared in the January 28, 2004 issue. It was reprinted the next year in both the Hartwell/Cramer and the Dozois Year’s Best anthologies. Bisson included the story in his collection Greetings and the story was translated into Italian in 2008. It was short-listed for the Theodore Sturgeon Award.
The majority of “Scout’s Honor” is told in the form of brief reports apparently sent from a time traveler who is performing an anthropological study of Neanderthals. Interspersed with these reports, the narrator writes about his own life, or at least the parts of it related to the reports, which he initially suspects is a prank played by his friend, Ron, who is also a science fiction writer. Ron denies his involvement and eventually comes to believe, based on internal evidence from the e-mails, that the narrator is playing a prank on him.
One of the problems with reading a science fiction story can be that the reader can expect certain things to happen, and “Scout’s Honor” does follow those tropes. While the modern cry of “Spoiler” is all too common, “Scout’s Honor” provides its own internal spoilers.
However, there is much more to a story than simple plot points and the intriguing thing in this tale isn’t what is happening, but rather how Bisson manages his reveal, both to the narrator and to the reader. Bisson handles it in a clever and subtle manner.
Reprint reviewed in the collection Greetings, Tachyon Publications, 2005.
Steven H Silver is a fifteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW and NESFA Press. He began publishing short fiction in 2008 and his most recently published story is “Big White Men—Attack!” in Little Green Men—Attack! Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 5 times, as well as serving as the Event Coordinator for SFWA. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7. He has been the news editor for SF Site since 2002.