Short Story #32: Vintage Season by C. L. Moore

Title:  Vintage Season

Author: C. L. Moore

Short Story #32 out of 365

Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)


Date Read: 1/26/2014
Source:  Alfred Hitchcock Presents Stories for Late at Night edited by Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Arthur.  The story was also turned into a radio show and can be found on
Book cover:  Alfred Hitchcock Presents Stories for Late at Night edited by Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Arthur
Archive.org.

Summary

Oliver Wilson has rented out his old house to three very odd guests, two women and a man.  However, he cannot exactly tell where they are from.  The three of them, Omerie, Klia, and Kleph Sancisco, take up residence with the expectation that Wilson will not also be living in the house.  However, Wilson has other plans as he has been offered substantial money for the house if the purchasers can occupy the house by the last week in May.  The money offered is worth more than the house and would help him pay for a future wedding with his fiance, Sue.  Thus, Wilson continues to hang around and snoop.  Eventually, he becomes closer with Kleph who shares with him a euphoric beverage that unwinds both him and her and he discovers more about his guests.  Later on, one of the parties interested in buying the house comes and it is clear to Wilson, she is also from wherever the Sanciscosare from.  She offers him the means of vanquishing the guests so that she can occupy the house by the end of May.  It's at this point that Wilson learns from Kleph that Sanciscos and others are in fact part of the group of beings from far in Earth's future who are traveling through space and time to witness some of history's most memorable and beautiful moments.  They had just visited Canterbury during Chaucer's time to witness the most exquisite spring.  It's still unclear why they are there but once Omerie discovers that Wilson knows, he holds him in the house until the event.  The event is the obliteration of the town (of which the house has a good view of) by a meteorite and the ensuing fire.  After the Sanciscos and their guests have left, one traveler remains who is composing music inspired by the tragic events the accompany the destruction of the town.  As he realizes what is occurring, Wilson begins to draft an account to leave for others.  Unfortunately, he dies and his house is demolished shortly afterward because a new tragedy has struck--the "Blue plague."  

Reflection

This story was identified as a "novelette" in this anthology and elsewhere is referred to as a novella.  Again, not quite sure the difference.  It was definitely shorter than The Death of Ivan Ilyich (and more engaging to boot).  The romantic arc between Oliver and Kleph felt a little weak, but the story was interesting.  This idea that those of privilege (in this case, those in the future) find the mayhem and chaos of common people as idle entertainment is certainly still poignant today (The Hunger Games would be a good example of this theme).  This passage was particularly striking in terms of a criticism of the haves and have-nots: 

"It seemed terrible to Oliver now.  Even Kleph--all of them had been touched with pettiness...small schemes to acquire a ringside seat while the meteor thundered in toward Earth's atmosphere.  They were all dilettantes  Kleph and Omerie and the other.  They toured time, but only as onlookers.  Were they bored--sated--with their normal existence?  

Not sated enough to wish change, basically   They dared not change the past--they could not risk flawing their own present."

In many ways, this reminds me of the issues of privilege in culture--any privilege (be it racial, economic, cultural, sex, gender, etc).  Someone with privilege can often be acknowledge it consciously or unconsciously, but sometimes, it is done by "onlookers" who wish to "not change" and "risk flawing their own present."  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.





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