A to Z Reviews: “Deal with the Devil,” by Carol Gyzander

A to Z Reviews: “Deal with the Devil,” by Carol Gyzander

A to Z Reviews

Although the most famous iteration of the Beatles featured George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr, the band had a variety of lineups prior to settling on the Fab Four. Many know of its famed lineup during their Hamburg Days: Harrison, Lennon, McCartney, Pete Best, and Stu Sutcliffe. In “Deal with the Devil,” Carol Gyzander elects to write about a lesser known lineup, which allows the story to be dated to a one week period between Christmas 1960 and the end of that year, when the Beatles played in Liverpool with Chas Newby replacing Stu Sutcliffe, who had elected to remain behind in Hamburg.

While they wait to begin a set to begin, Lennon hands around some pills and suddenly the nascent Beatles find themselves staring at two boys on a television screen. More surprisingly, they are able to have a conversation with the two boys who claim to live in the Beatles’ distant future and were trying to establish contact with the rock heroes, Black Sabbath, through some sort of séance.

Cover by Dave AlvarezA to Z,

Although the boys and the Beatles spend a lot of time talking past each other, Lennon’s takeaway from the encounter is that it is possible for the Beatles to become big and also possible to make a deal with the devil in order to achieve that success. At the same time, he understands that the other band members may not have the same feelings about that route to success.

The two boys from the Beatles future have clearly achieved something that they weren’t expecting and they make it clear to the reader where the idea for their séance came from, making oblique references to pop culture of the 1980s. Part of what makes the story work is the boys’ focus on Black Sabbath (including their debate over whether Ozzy Osbourne or Ronnie James Dio was a better front man) and their dismissive attitude towards the Beatles, which means that Lennon must take their own success on faith.

Gyzander’s Beatles are barely sketched in. While Lennon is the leader in the discussion with the apparitions on the television, McCartney, Harrison, Newby, and Best are barely differentiated from each other. They are the Beatles because they need to be the Beatles, but they show little sign of the personalities or talents that made them who the Beatles were. Instead, Gyzander is able to use the shorthand of the fact that two of them were part of one of the most famous bands of all time and at least one of the others would have a name that was readily recognizable to Beatles fans.

In its own, strange way, “Deal with the Devil” is the embodiment of hope and fears of beginning bands. The Beatles Gyzander depicts know what they are capable of, especially after returning from the harsh boot camp of Hamburg, but they have yet to prove themselves to the world at large. As they are going back to face their native Liverpudlian crowds, the fear that only some supernatural agency can raise them to the heights that they have now seen are achievable.

Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a twenty-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 eight 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 six times. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x