Birthday Reviews: Andy Duncan’s “Santa Cruz”

Birthday Reviews: Andy Duncan’s “Santa Cruz”

Cover by Shawn T. King
Cover by Shawn T. King

Andy Duncan was born on September 21, 1961.

In 1998, he was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Duncan has won the World Fantasy Award twice, for his collection Beluthahatchie and Other Stories in 2001 and for his novella “Wakulla Springs,” co-written with Ellen Klages, in 2014. “Wakulla Springs” was also nominated for the Nebula and Hugo Awards. Duncan did win a Nebula Award in 2013 for his Novelette “Close Encounter” and he has a total of 8 nominations for the Nebula Award and three for the Hugo Award. He also won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for his Novella “The Chief Designer,” which was also up for the Hugo and Nebula. Duncan has won the Southeastern SF Achievement Award twice, for “The Chief Designer” and “The Big Rock Candy Mountain.” He is currently on the Board of SFWA.

“Santa Cruz: A True Story” was published in Jaym Gates’s anthology Genius Loci: Tales of the Spirit of Place in 2016. The original publication received poor distribution and there are currently plans in the works to re-release the volume through another publisher with better distribution. The story has not yet been reprinted.

Duncan relates “Santa Cruz: A True Story” as if it had happened to him. The fictionalized version of Duncan is on a trip through California and stops in Santa Cruz, just south of San Jose, to visit with an old friend, Rob, who wound up settling in the city because there was something magical about the place that spoke to him, even if he couldn’t quite explain what it was.

For the most part, the story is completely mundane. Andy and Rob finish a night of reminiscing and while walking across an empty parking lot come across a drunk woman who has been abandoned in the lot. Andy offers her a lift home with Rob following her. Even when the story gets weird, it doesn’t get particularly weird. Andy makes a turn that causes him to lose Rob. The woman gives him drunk directions to a random cul-de-sac and eventually to her home. He manages to extricate himself from her neighborhood in about a tenth of the time it took to get there, and he reconnects with Rob.

However, the way Duncan presents the story, Andy clearly believes that there is something mystical about Santa Cruz in general and his interactions with the drunk woman that can’t be explained by coincidence. That feeling is supported by the author’s writing style, leaving the reader to the conclusion that Santa Cruz is filled with a guiding, but not malevolent or benevolent, spirit.

Reviewed in its only appearance in the anthology Genius Loci: Tales of the Spirit of Place, edited by Jaym Gates, Ragnarok Publications, 2016.


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 “Webinar: Web Sites” in The Tangled Web. Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 6 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.

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