Off the Shelf - "Callahan's Crosstime Saloon"

By Marcus Pan

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Callahan's Crosstime SaloonI decided to stay in the frivolity for a bit and continued on with some light reading after Spellsinger. So I picked up a small book by a fairly well known Analog-age science fiction writer, one Spider Robinson. Robinson was something of an enigma in the sci-fi community, being a scrawny little guy who wrote stories that would certainly not qualify as "hard" science fiction. While Asimov, Heinlien and Dick were exploring time travel, energy usage and such - Robinson stayed simple with his thoughts on humanity and morality. Calahan's Crosstime Saloon is a light and breezy romp that looks at such issues as sociological change, effects of such on people and by the end started to dabble lightly, but with much power, in the alien-based conspiracy realm (David Icke would love this book and attempt to turn it into fact).

Robinson's writing career began with the help of Ben Bova, who at the time he wrote his first story was the editor of Analog magazine. Bova found the story, The Guy With the Eyes, to be a wonderfully written piece. And even though it contained a monologue from an alien named Michael Finn, it still was very light on your typical science fiction fare that Analog was publishing at the time. It caused a bit of flack from readers when Ben published it anyway…but in the end the folk-tale storytelling flair of Spider Robinson won out - to the point of his winning of a Campbell Award in 1974.

The novel(la) length Callahan's Crosstime Saloon includes a number of stories written by Spider that were at one time included in Analog, as well as some that didn't yet appear. The stories are short and sweet, depicting a bar where the patrons are all wanting for some semblance of comfort in their lives. It seems that those that wander into Callahan's are only "those that needed to," as the writer states. People down on their luck - not always human, but always people in the moralistic sense of the word. One of the strangest gifts that Spider possesses is his punning ability - which shows up rampantly throughout the stories as Callahan's has specific nights for various activities - Tall Tales Nite, Punday, etc. The results of the competition are quite something if you're into that sort of wordplay.

The stories are linked together from one to the other by their locales of course, all taking place within the confines of the bar. Through the works you'll meet various people, both regulars and visitors that in some cases become regulars. The morals and lessons that are touched upon are things you can use virtually anywhere, with Callahan and his patrons playing the part of listeners with only occasional advice. Callahan's is a place to unload, not be judged. The final story, The Wonderful Conspiracy, takes us into a multi-mega-year storyline that culminates on a Halloween celebration at Callahan's and ends up involving the first alien that wandered into the bar back in the first tale, The Guy With the Eyes. The novel closes superbly on this note, with a slight battle, little-known to the rest of the world, but full understood in Callahan's.

Overall, the stories were easy to read, light but with deep moral conceptions. While not hard SF, and being more of a stranger version of Cheers in a way, Callahan's Crosstime Saloon is short and easy to breeze through. You'll enjoy it if you're into 1) puns, 2) light reading that just touches science fiction and 3) David Icke the conspiracy kook. So if you're any of the above three, be sure to see if you can find a copy of this old ditty.

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"Callahan's Crosstime Saloon" by Spider Robinson
Published by Ace Books
Copyright © 1977 by Spider Robinson
ISBN: 0812572270

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