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Birthday Reviews: F. Paul Wilson’s “When He Was Fab”

Thursday, May 17th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Bob Eggleton

Cover by Bob Eggleton

F. Paul Wilson was born on May 17, 1946.

Wilson won the Bram Stoker Award for his short story “Aftershocks” in 1999. He has been nominated for the award seven more times, and in 2009 he received a Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Horror Writer’s Association. Wilson was named a Grand Master by World Horror Con in 2005. He received his first Prometheus Award in 1979 for the novel Wheels Within Wheels and in 2004 he won the award for the novel Sims. His Healer and An Enemy of the State won back-to-back Prometheus Hall of Fame Awards in 1990 and 1991. He was one of the Guests of Honor at the 2009 World Horror Convention in Winnipeg, Canada.

Although originally written with Thomas F. Monteleone’s Borderlands 2 in mind, “When We Was Fab” was purchased by Darrell Schweitzer for a special F. Paul Wilson issue of Weird Tales, which appeared in Winter of 1992/1993. Wilson reprinted the story in his 2009 collection Aftershocks and Others: 19 Oddities. It has not otherwise been reprinted.

“When He Was Fab” starts out like many stories about an alien symbiote that takes over a hapless human, in this case, Doug, who works as a super for an apartment in Brooklyn. The symbiote attaches itself to him one day when he’s cleaning out a clogged drain in the building’s basement. The story is also about Marc, a New Yorker who has suddenly found himself part of the cream of New York night life, able to get into all the bars and the person the stars all want to be seen with. Despite the shallowness off Marc’s live, he has found something that makes him happy and he tries to share what he has found with other people.

Wilson eventually brings Marc and Doug’s stories together. In doing so, he takes the symbiote, which would normally be the villain or monster of this type of story and actually makes the creature, which appears as a thick goo, to be a more sympathetic character than either of the humans whose activities Wilson has been describing. When the symbiote appears to take ill, both Doug and the reader care about what happens to the creature.

Reprint reviewed in its the collection Aftershocks and Others: 19 Oddities, by F. Paul Wilson, Tor Books, 2009.


Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a sixteen-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 “Doing Business at Hodputt’s Emporium” in Galaxy’s Edge. 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.

3 Comments »

  1. I really liked Wilson’s early La Nague Federation stories. I never could get into his horror — I’m really not a horror reader.

    Comment by Rich Horton - May 17, 2018 7:29 am

  2. Again I’m reminded of how much I loved the Terminus run of Weird Tales.

    Comment by Joe H. - May 17, 2018 12:43 pm

  3. Wilson’s Repairman Jack is one of the great characters of our time.

    Comment by Bob Byrne - May 17, 2018 5:13 pm


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