The Hole Where Andy Used To Be by Sean Vivier, Flash Fiction Online, 2018

This piece uses clever repetition and simple sentences to articulate complex issues. The hole is metaphorical as well as literal. It is a manephestation of the lonelyness and emptiness the narrator feels since he husband has left her–and their son.

The piece excels in the places of loss and sadness. Near the end the piece gets more hopreful and I think it’s a bit rushed. This piece is at its best when it is giving specific examples of how the Hole Where Andy Used To Be is impacting the narrator and her son. While the end is uplifting and definately shows changed within the character, the abruptness of the shift left me a little on edge. I felt as though I needed a progression rather than a pure switch.

My Year of Short Stories: Dec 12th, The Last Dance by Jack McDevitt, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Nov/Dec 2017

Spoilers*

A story about a man who replaces his late wife with a holographic digital image of her. The software is comprised of his memories, her legal documents, social networks, family recollections, etc. The only difference between his wife and this A.I. representation of her is that he can not touch this holographic A.I.

The man also has a daughter in third grade. The daughter is much less enthusiastic in welcoming this mother-replacement.

After some time the A.I begins to question the narrator about whether he has other women in his life. At first, readers might think this is another cliche of an A.I. becoming jealous, but it’s quickly revealed that the A.I. wants the narrator to begin to see other women. Find someone else. Move on from his wife’s death. The A.I. says it is part of the process. The reason he paid for the service. It is a tool that helps people get over loss, and as his mother had died just a year before his wife, the A.I. was supposed to be utilized as a tool. However, the narrator is not able to let go. The A.I. leaves, disappears, and the narrator is left distraught, only for his mother (or the A.I. version of his mother) to come into the room and comfort him.

A had a few issues with this piece in terms of making sense of the world. First, the A.I. hologram was a one-time purchase in the story, but by the end, the A.I. wife tells him she’s leaving and that’s he’ll receive a partial refund. From a business standpoint, this makes no sense at all. No business would create a product that is refundable if it runs its course. If anything, the A.I. would be programmed to stay with him and help him through everything in order to avoid any potential refund. This could have been done as a subscription.

Second, The mother A.I. showing up in the end sorta came out of left field for me. The mother’s death was mentioned twice in the piece, but there’s no hint that the narrator would have brought her back like this.

Third, the dialogue between the narrator and his 3rd-grade daughter doesn’t feel or sound natural. I substitute teach (sometimes in 3rd-grade classrooms) and it felt like the daughter in this piece was older than that. (C-)

My Year of Short Stories: Sept 28th – Oct 4th

September 28th, 2017, An Incident In The Literary Life of Nathan Arkwright by Allen M. Steele, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, September, 2017.

Blurb: A humorous look at an overlooked SF author’s misadventure in Nashville.

Opinion: I think this piece speaks some deep truths to what authors want from their writing. Remembrance. I think it does a good job showing how older, established authors might feel when new authors, younger authors, authors from a new generation with different world views, begin to take center stage. I think it’s a fun romp with a tinge of fantasy/SF–but nothing too blatant.

September 29th, 2017, The Cabinet by William Preston, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, September, 2017.

Blurb: A creepy story that deals with fortune telling, German folklore, and sonmnambulism.

Opinion: I really liked this story in terms of plotting and tone, however, I sometimes had a difficult time following the style of the author. One theme I enjoyed was the unknown being always unknown and therefore frightening.

September 30th, 2017, Head, Scales, Tongue, Tale by Leigh Bardugo, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, Series Editor, John Joseph Adams, Editor, Charles Yu. Originally Published in Summer Days and Summer Nights.

Blurb: A story about the mysteries of growing up in a small town and the flurry of confusion when it feels the adult world is leaving you behind.

Opinion: This was a super well written story and I really enjoyed it. The ending was pretty obvious and I think the fantastical part of it could have been accomplished in different ways that could have been more interesting or unexpected, but one of the nice parts about genre is that comfort to know how things might work in the end, I guess. (B)

October 1st, 2017, The Cartographer Wasps And The Anarchist Bees by E. Lilly  Yu, Clarkesworld Year 5, editors, Neil Clarke, Sean Wallace.

Blurb: A fairy tale allegory about hegemony and enslavement–but also what wonders sometimes comes from such horrible situations.

Opinion: The narration of this piece takes an omniscient tone on how one civilization subjugates another. It is told in a fairy tale style, but with a nice flow. The pacing is great–especially for a piece in which there aren’t any “main characters” or protagonists. While there’s certainly a faction the author wants you to empathize with, there isn’t a single character to connect the reader to the piece. Despite this, it’s a well written story that kept my attention from start to finish. (B)

October 2nd, 2017, Letters From Sweden: Letter Iby Mary Wollstencraft.

Blurb: Mary writes about her experience going to shore in Norway to visit with locals.

Opinion: This is not a piece I would read on my own. This fall I am assistant teaching in a freshmen class at The Evergreen State College, and students are reading this piece, assigned by their professor. I feel about this piece of literature, much as I do about other antiquated works; it has merit in the use of language, but surely students would be better served to learn how language is being used now, in today’s world, rather than in the 1700’s. The reason I believe this is due to the fact that if someone would seek to write in the style of Wollstencraft they would be shamed for the use of punctuation and grammar, as the written language has changed in the last 300 years. Can students learn from this example of pioneering travel writing? Surely. But to what application will be this lesson. Nebulous or concrete? (D)

October 3rd, 2017, Frozen Voice by An Owomoyela, published Clarkesworld: Year 5.

Blurb: In a world where aliens have confiscated books due to the harm “frozen voice” does to them, a young girl and her little brother go in search of their mother who disappeared while searching a hidden library to recover what literature she could.

Opinion: Great story. Well written. It pays homage to The War of The Worlds, and also put me in the spot where I felt as though I could really see, feel, hear the world that had been constructed. I like the allegory to book burning. genocide, Utopian and dystopian societies, all in one story. (C+)

October 4th, 2017, Teenagers From Outer Space by Dale Bailey, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, Series Editor, John Joseph Adams, Editor, Charles Yu. Originally published in Clarkesworld, 2016.

Blurb: Alien monsters take over the slummy part of town and start sending their kids to the high school. The year is 1955, and the narrator, Nancy, has a rebellious friend. This rebellious friend, Joan, visits the part of town the aliens have changed and is never the same again.

Opinion: A wonderful tale about integration in schools, bi-racial relationships, and the advent of an era in which rebellion against norms was essential to the United States identity. The narration is super tricky in this piece also, as it slides back and forth in time, letting on more than it outrightly reveals at times, only to increase tension for what is a mystery until later on in the story. (B)