On a Vacant Face a Bruise


  • First publication
    • Strange Birds, 2006


A boy named Tom runs away to join an interstellar circus. He is guided by three "strange birds," and grows up to seek justice for those around him.


The title comes from the words of Maxim Gorky, a Russian writer: "The Russian people ... learned to make sorrow a diversion ... made a carnival of grief; a fire is entertainment; and on a vacant face a bruise becomes an adornment."

The gritty life of circus folks may be related to Fellini's La Strada.

There is a reference to Stromboli from The Toy Theater.

No Planets Strike features a similar interplanetary circus act.

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