Etiquette with Your Robot Wife and Thirty More SF/F/H Lists
illustrated by Marge Simon
(Talisman, 2005. $4.95 chapbook, 44 pages.)
a fan of unusual poetic forms. This chapbook collects Bruce Boston's
best "list poems." A list poem is exactly what it sounds like: a list
of related points. Most in this collection focus on etiquette or clues
about surrealistic situations.
At least one, "Things Not To Say When You Meet a Famous SF Writer,"
is entirely aboveboard. I have personally heard most of these uttered
by other people ("Can you sign this crate of books now?" is almost inevitable)
in signing lines. Several have been said to me ("Where do you get all
those crazy ideas?") even though I am not yet a famous SF writer. However,
"I've never read anything by you. But I hear it's pretty good" can work
as an opening, if followed by, "So which of your two dozen books should
I start with?" This poem makes the collection a fun gift for any writers
Boston includes savvy observations on the nature of life and other
hilarious tidbits, like: "War! Pestilence! Earthquakes! Hurricanes!
Maybe you should cut down on the caffeine." (from "Things Not to Say
When You Meet the Master of the Universe") "Forces Congress to sit bolt
upright." (from "Our Robot President: The First Hundred Days") "Decide
which of the seven remaining species besides humans I like the best
and make a sincere effort to help save it." (from "New Year's Resolutions,
2223) "The holocaust of history leaving its brand on the portraits you
have left to paint." (from "Things You Can't Avoid as an Immortal")
Two of the poems I found more tacky than entertaining. "Reasons the
Druids Did Not Survive" and "Things Not To Say at a Witch Burning" are
disrespectful of religions (there are practicing Druids and Witches
today). Unlike most others, they deal with historical situations rather
than purely surrealistic ones. Satire of real incidents is harder to
do without offense; I've seen it done better.
The vivid imagery transcends individual poems; Bruce Boston offers
many memorable turns of phrase. Some of my favorites include:
Your rage and frustration
wound into a tight bundle
at the core of your being
and ready to explode.
-- "What To Take and Not To the Enchanted Forest"
None of those annoying episodes
when I felt impossibly horny
and sometimes could satisfy it
and sometimes not.
-- "Why I Chose a Robot Body and Have Never Regretted It"
Of course, the titles themselves stand out; they're among of the best
writing in this collection. Some writers have a hard time coming up
with zippy titles -- Boston isn't among them.
Etiquette with Your Robot Wife is a fine collection of speculative
poetry, spanning several subgenres. Both poetry and science fiction
fans will like it. For extra fun, try reading one of these poems in
class or at an open mike night.