Kit Reed’s The Holdouts appeared in the June 1977 issue of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
The Holdouts is comprised of three separately told parallel stories, the theme of which are -you guessed it- hold outs. Other than this theme of ‘holding out’, nothing ties the stories together in a meaningful way (or at least one that I can remember), and therein is one of the major weaknesses of this story. The other major weakness is that only one of the stories was interesting. For some reason, I’d completely forgotten what the B-story was, despite it having been more interesting at the time than the C-story.
The A-story is about a trio of WW2 Japanese soldiers abandoned on Pacific Island, holding desperately onto the order demanded by their rank and culture to keep going in hopes that someday they would be able to return home victorious to Japan.
The B-story is some kind of Sunset Blvd. type yarn, wherein an aging actress endlessly rewatches reels of her incomplete film opposite a hunky Hollywood guy who’d left her. Her daughter is kept virtually a prisoner of her obsession, and the guilt of her own pregnancy and birth (which caused the film to stop production, never to be resumed) leads the daughter to acquiesce to the mother’s madness.
The C-story is… I think some guy has a farm? Or something. Doesn’t want to sell it but maybe has to?
C-story resolves with the guy selling the farm to hippies for a knock-off Woodstock, I think.
B-story resolves with the daughter meeting an attractive guy; mom thinks she can use him to finish the film, for herself, if nothing else, and give up on the Hollywood hunk who left her years ago. The guy likes the girl enough that maybe he’ll help out mom.
A-story resolves with an American Astronaut washing up on shore, telling the stranded Japanese that the war is over, it’s a new day! The nearly naked, half-dead, three-quarters-starved, seven-eighths-mad Japanese draw their swords, shout “Banzai!” and hack him to pieces.
I did enjoy story A and story B on their own terms, even if I was unable to engage the triptych of The Holdouts as had Reed had intended. Story A was especially moving, with the Private who longed for human contact but was restricted by hierarchy from opening up to his companions, the Captain, who felt the same way as the Private, but needed to maintain order by his rank to keep them alive, both ultimately separated by the Lieutenant who was caught in between, motivated by self-preservation and a desire for power and advancement that could never be realized in their current straits. Story B, like story A, had very human characters who you could at least pity, if not always sympathize with. Story C had a farmer.
Um… I guess you could say that the Japanese held out to the very end? I’m not looking deep enough into this story to draw the meaning that I’m sure is there and I’m sure that Kit Reed wanted me to get, but I don’t want to work that hard for something appearing in a book with a space whale flying into a supernova on its cover.