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
John Langan’s dark, despairing world in The Fisherman is full of ugly things you don’t want to find on the end of your fishing line. It’s weird fiction that stretches toward the literary with its rich descriptions, psychological underpinnings and complex narrative structure, but horror is its terrible (and fascinating) heart. It will keep you turning pages far longer than you planned.
The story is set in the dark mountains of the Catskills, and whenever I hear that word I think of Rip Van Winkle and the strange men he found in there, so my mind was already primed for weird things to happen in places where old Dutch place names are still thick. Langan certainly plays with these associations, but our protagonist Abe doesn’t go into these wild places to sleep. He goes to fish.
Abe lives in a small town and works for IBM. Because of his grief for his dead wife he is barely functioning and continues to sleep through his life until he takes up fishing. Catching fish and venturing into streams in the mountains seems to provide him the comfort he needs to try to pull it together. He casts his grief into the water like he casts his line–with patience and with curiosity to see what might take the bait. Be careful what you wish for! The adventure that ensues, eventually, forces Abe to wake up and shake off his grief or pay the steepest price. 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