Random Reviews: “The Loser of Solitaire” by Paul David Novitski

Random Reviews: “The Loser of Solitaire” by Paul David Novitski

Cover by Steve Fabian
Cover by Steve Fabian

The introduction to Paul David Novitski’s short story “The Loser of Solitaire” in the January 1979 issue of Fantastic Stories notes “Paul Novitski is not a prolific author.” In fact, he sees to have published a total of five short stories over a period of seven years, with the first two, appearing in 1973 and 1975, published under the name Alpajpuri, and the last three, all appearing in 1979 under his own name.

Novitski tells the story of a man who is looking someone named Zo. Through the course of the story, we learn that this man is a rover, someone who travels at relativistic speeds through space and therefore ages differently than mere mortals. He also has four arms, although at no point does Novitski address whether the arms are natural or an augmentation.

His search for Zo takes him into a night-club/brothel, where he is assaulted by the sights, colors, and sounds while he is being propositioned until he finds Zo. When he does find her, he explains that they have a friend in common, Sergi, although it is unclear how much of a friend Zo considers him. What is clear is that Zo is something of a writer and Sergi had shown the rover some of her writings, which has caused him to want to track her down.

The story seems to be a couple of characters in search of a narrative. The conversation between the two characters has the feeling of two ships passing in the night, nothing being said of particular consequence to either participant, a meeting that would be forgotten upon the rovers return to space, where the world is less claustrophobic.

“The Loser of Solitaire” is one of those stories in which the main character finds himself in a place where he is not entirely comfortable, and the reader is not entirely sure what Novitski’s world, either within the confines of the story or beyond, looks like.

Although Novitski hints at a world that could be interesting, he doesn’t really give the reader anything to grab onto as his nearly anonymous rover reveals little of his own personality or purpose and Zo also comes across as something of a tabula rasa.

Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a nineteen-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, NESFA Press, and ZNB. His most recent anthology is Alternate Peace and his novel After Hastings was published in 2020. Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 6 times. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7.

Notify of

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dale Nelson

Hi there —

I write an occasional column for the Tolkien newsletter Beyond Bree about the “Hobbit Craze” of the second half the 1960s. Your column’s mention of Alpajpuri brought this piece by me to mind. In case it owuld interest Black Gate readers….

Days of the Craze #10
The Siskiyou Hobbits
by Dale Nelson
My family moved to Ashland, Oregon, in June 1969. Somehow an issue of the Southern Oregon College student newspaper, The Siskiyou, came into my junior high school-aged hands. I’m unable to give its precise date, but the unsigned notice probably appeared in May or June 1969. Here it is, exactly as printed then:

Tolkien Readers Unite
Anyone who would enjoy helping to establish smail [sic] of the Tolkien Society of America please make yourselves known to Mattewillis Beard, Muddywillow Ranch, Medford, or phone 535-1824. Irregular meetings will be held at which the local hobbits, Elves, wizards, Dwarves, Half-elven, men of Gondor, Riders of the Mark, and the remnants of the Dunedain will gather to celebrate the downfall of the Dark Lord. At such meeting [sic] we will read from the Red Book of Westmarch; sing songs (preferably homemade) by or about Tom Bombadil, Bilbo, Samwise, Aragorn, and other admirable folk. We will consider that fantasy world of Todae and relate it to our own real and solid world of Middle Earth… as much as we can relate to such outlandishness. Middle Earthly things in fanzines will be dug out and enjoyed; a mathom will be exchanged; refreshments such as cider and seed-cakes will be served; a portion of time will be spent on the Feanorian alphabet and possibly the Runes, to make it possible to use either Tengwar or Angerthas for business purposes such as announcing meetings, and such. We will try for a visit from the Sherrif [sic] of the Smails, Alpajpuri, who, at present is dwelling in a burrow near Eugene, Oregon. This smial will be under the protection of Aragorn, who wnaders [sic] yet in unceasing vigilance… holding at bay the remnants of Sauron’s evil forces.
The only requirement is appreciation of The Lord of the Rings and honor to J. R. R. Tolkien for having set down these chronicles of the ending of the Third Age of Middle Earth,.. though we may later include some notice of the works of James Branch Cabell, Eddisson [sic], and of other writers of the genre
Note by Dale Nelson: According to Fancyclopedia 3, Alpajpuri was the fan-name of Paul Novitski, who edited seven issues of Carandaith for the Australian Tolkien Society during 1968-1972. A Fanlore online site says that Mattewillis Beard contributed art to the Star Trek Concordance (1969).
The Tolkien Society of America merged with the Mythopoeic Society in 1972. Before 1972, had a TSA smial been formed in southern Oregon? I’m aware of no traces. Unsuccessful attempts to start Tolkienian groups are an elusive but genuine part of Craze history.

(c) 2022 Dale Nelson

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x