The three core elements of any short story that must satisfy this reader are 1) intriguing characters, 2) a believable world, and 3) a plot. That’s it. It seems so elemental, but plenty of stories that try to lure my reading eye fall short in one or more of those categories, and failure creates a cascading reading crisis here. When a story fails to deliver, I stop reading.
We reader/writers don’t want that. You writer/readers don’t want that. Editors of online magazines, publishers of novels, publishers and editors of print anthologies–none of you want this. So let me spread a little ray of sunshine, a little high, a joy, a hope, a satisfaction by sharing a brief review of the best short story I’ve read since the summer.
An unnamed narrator, a man in his later years, is writing to his dead wife in “A Catalogue of Sunlight at the End of the World” by A.C. Wise. He’s at a crossroads of a sort. His wife is gone and his children are going. If you are of a certain age, these bare facts will have given you ample motivation to continue reading, but the payoff is not some melodramatic family drama. The drama is both much quieter and much larger. The earth is dying, and his children are fleeing to space to find a new home, leaving him behind. Continue reading
In a recent opinion piece in The Guardian, plainly titled “Amitav Ghosh: where is the fiction about climate change?” the “serious” fiction writer Ghosh stated,
When the subject of climate change occurs, it is almost always in relation to nonfiction; novels and short stories are very rarely to be glimpsed within this horizon. Indeed, it could even be said that fiction that deals with climate change is almost by definition not of the kind that is taken seriously: the mere mention of the subject is often enough to relegate a novel or a short story to the genre of science fiction. It is as though in the literary imagination climate change were somehow akin to extraterrestrials or interplanetary travel.
What the hell? How does any author alive today make such a grossly ill-informed comment about fiction that addresses climate change? There are hundreds of novels and stories about climate change. You should read more, Ghosh. Start here, or here.
He asks, “Why does climate change cast a much smaller shadow on literature than it does on the world? Is it perhaps too wild a stream to be navigated in the accustomed barques of narration?”
Barques? Really? Maybe one of the reason “serious” fiction writers don’t write much about climate change is because they’re too busy contemplating how to use 19th century words in the 21st Century and don’t have the inclination to look ahead. Continue reading
One of the things I wanted to do on this blog was look at how speculative fiction is shaping the future and how the future is shaping speculative fiction. When I wrote that I hadn’t fully appreciated the scope of that thought. I’m overwhelmed by it now, and I find it difficult to quantify but still intriguing. So now I’m starting to catalogue some ideas about the near future that I think make up the primary challenges headed our way. I want to eventually collect and note works of science fiction, horror, fantasy, even mainstream fiction that reflect or illuminate these issues.
Here are four near future challenges that interest me both in my day-to-day existence and in my writerly imagination.
1. The growing tension between the evolving global economy and the rise of the machines. If things go well, one day we might hail this period as the one where labor was freed along with capital, global economic equilibrium was achieved, we’re all super creative entrepreneurs, and there are no more phone contracts. If things go badly, we might remember this period as the one where the notion of progress was thoroughly discredited and humanity wound up divided into the haves and have nots with both camps having robot armies and neither camp having a sense of purpose. (I hear Janice singing “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose….” in the back of my head.) A very interesting discussion about this dynamic recently aired on “On Point with Tom Ashbrook.” Continue reading