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
I should be working on the WIP, but this is had to get on paper. Let me know what you think.
When people talk about the purge now they mostly fall in one of two camps. Some worship at the altar of mysterious holy-or-unholy retribution. We got it ‘cause we deserved it or, flip side, we got it because some badass demon decided to visit it upon us and we were just simple little sheep led to slaughter mainly due to poor demon-identification skills. The other camp, those who persist in hoping that rational thought will save us, talk it out by trying to knit pieces of science together like a lifeline. We can trace the “vector” back to “case 1” and then science the hell out of it and then stop it. Stop it! Stop it!!!
Problem is god is a cagey son-of-a-bitch, demons are immortal and science is so damn slow.
So you could see how this was going to go down. God’s men would put your mind at ease about the end, demon fighters and demon deputies ate up all the media time trying to figure out how who was doing the demon’s work for him or why his work was good for the country, and the science types had to fall back on prayer that somebody with real skills and knowledge was working on a solution somewhere.
Those of us who clearly understood this scenario, regardless of our natural biases, had only one true option. Stay or go. Not fight or flight, mind you, because we do both all too often. The option was and is stay or go. Stay where you are, fortify your walls and yourself and deal with what comes, or go where you want to be to fortify your walls and yourself and deal with what comes.
I thought I was a stay, but now I’m a go. That’s how Clare and I, and the dog, ended driving hard across the southwest toward the rising sun and home.
Do you remember the first time you read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451? Do you remember Montag’s arrival at the camp in the woods where the drifters who had escaped the authoritarian government memorized books? That scene has never left me, and ever since Bradbury died in 2012, it has seemed more important than ever.
Is it because I love books? Is it because stories are central to my very being? Is it because our current political leadership is trending authoritarian? Is it because net neutrality is in danger? Is it because those grubby drifters strolling through the forest and reciting great works, seemed authentically human in a world where those with power were (are?) technologically advanced, corrupt and soulless?
August 22nd is Ray Bradbury’s birthday. Last year I proclaimed the day “Ray Day,” and, just like the drifters, a few friends and I memorized a few lines from stories we love to honor of Bradbury and, more importantly, to honor his message to all of us about the importance of stories and all the interesting, vital, moving, shocking, essential thoughts humankind has ever recorded. Continue reading
Note: This is the second review of a short story nominated for the 2017 Nebula Awards. You can see all the nominees here, and my earlier review of “This is Not a Wardrobe Door” by A. Merc Rustad here.
Sam J. Miller (and friend?)
So here’s the short version of “Things with Beards” by Sam J. Miller: Protagonist Jimmy (Jim?) McReady has returned to New York in the summer of 1983 after a mysterious end to his work at a research station in Antarctica. He meets an old friend who’s involved with an underground group bent on payback for the cops harassing and abusing blacks. McReady is gay and white, and he identifies with his friend’s political agenda despite his Irish family, some of whom are cops. During the course of the story McReady discovers that he and his friend Hugh are infected with what is called at that time — the “gay cancer”. He also intuits that he is inhabited by a monster of some sort that claims great stretches of his memory and also attacks and inhabits practically everyone with whom McReady comes into close contact.
No, this is not a novel. It’s a freaking short story. Continue reading