Jim Smith takes to the stage of the Theatre Passé Muraille Backspace to pay homage and share his memories of science fiction writer Judy Merril. A writer, I’m ashamed to admit I had not heard of, especially when confronted by the list of titles she’d penned. Merril crafted tales during the heyday of pulp science fiction and editing anthologies. Outspoken, creative, inspired, and inspiring, Merril left the United States in protest of the Vietnam war and took up residence here in Toronto.
Using a science fiction trope, Smith is abducted by aliens who can read his mind, he regales his alien captors with tales, stories, and memories of the author.He also wraps those memories and moments with recollections of his own youth, growing up in Kingston and his discovery of escape through science fiction and Merril’s stories.
At its finest, Smith embraces the conjectured reality of his show and opens himself to his audience, sharing both painful moments, and delightful anecdotes are shared equally providing a look at not only Merril but Smith himself.
Filling his show with pop culture and literary references as well as some big league name-dropping there are moments that shine, and then, there are moments and beats that seem too rushed, when a breath should have been taken, or to let the audience enjoy a bon mot.
It did do something I will always be thankful for however, and that is introduce me to an author I didn’t know, in a genre I highly enjoy… And for anyone who loves science fiction and for those who love books, while also understanding the delicacy of memory and the pain of loss, this one is worth a look.
Smith takes the stage again Friday at 1:45, Saturday at 9:45 and Sunday at 12:30. You can buy your tickets here.