Birthday Reviews: Kurt R.A. Giambastiani’s “Intaglio”

Birthday Reviews: Kurt R.A. Giambastiani’s “Intaglio”

Cover by Gary Davis
Cover by Gary Davis

Kurt R.A. Giambastiani was born on December 4, 1958.

Giambiastini’s debut novel The Year of the Cloud was a finalist for the 2002 Endeavour Award. In addition to writing fiction, Giambastiani has performed as a violist in regional orchestras and works as a software developer.

“Intaglio” was published by Algis Budrys in the October 1995 issue of Tomorrow Speculative Fiction, issue #17. The story has never been reprinted.

Giambastiani’s story is set several years after a rebellion was put down on the planet Thessalon. The people of Thessalon and the city of Pellion, where the rebellion was centered, have mostly been ignored by the Central Military Forces, apart from a series of economic sanctions. The Commander of the forces that crushed the revolt, Gavin Price-George, however, takes a series of intaglios, three dimensional photographs which allow the viewer to see depth and perspective, following the revolt and has published them in the years since. To celebrate an anniversary, he returns to Pellion with a showing of his intaglios.

Price-George comes with a full military contingent and announces that he is not only throwing a party for the people of Pellion, but that trade restrictions will also be relaxed. Giambastiani’s story focuses on the differences between the way Price-George is greeted by the younger generation, which doesn’t have a memory of the war and the deaths, and the older generation, for whom the wounds are still fresh and the memories of their killed friends and families shade their dealings with Price-George. The art display drives that home as the younger generation is seeing old images, but the older generation is seeing pictures of their younger selves, often at moments of great anguish.

While time does create a distance in the pain, it doesn’t eradicate it entirely, and Rea Panapa, one of the older generation, points out to Price-George that whatever his purpose in returning to Thessalon might be in his own mind, he needs to consider it from the point of view of the inhabitants who were defeated and then lived under sanctions. The viewing of the pictures also caused some of the younger generation to reconsider their more welcoming attitude to the Central Forces.

In only a few short pages, Giambastiani not only sums up the different points of view of different generations and sides of a conflict, but he also points out the difficulty of fully getting past any sort of conflict and the negative reactions it leaves behind. He also explores the different ways the conquered and the conquerors can think about the conflict with one side able to be magnanimous and move on in ways the other in unable to.

Reviewed in its only appearance in the magazine Tomorrow Speculative Fiction #17, edited by Algis Budrys, October 1995.

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.

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