Talekyn (talekyn) wrote in 365shortstories,

2013 stories 151 - 159

Well, so much for being caught up, eh? Last post was June 2, talking about the June issue of Lightspeed magazine. I've read a lot more short stories since then, and just haven't posted about them here. So let's try to catch up a bit. The good news (for me, anyway) is that July 7th is the 188th day of the year, and I've actually read 203 short stories so far this year -- so at least I'm ahead of my own curve!

After the June issue of Lightspeed, the next short story anthology I read was also edited by John Joseph Adams: the upcoming re-issue of SEEDS OF CHANGE. Editor Adams asked each author to address a possible world-changing event.

151. N-Words by Ted Kosmatka Kosmatka takes the concept of Jurassic Park -- cloning of extinct species via found DNA -- and extends it to the Neanderthals. Yes, that's the "N" word in this story, not the one you were thinking of. Still, the author posits similar predjudice as these cloned children grow and inter-breed with modern humanity. The story is told from the POV of a woman who marries one of the "N's," and that gives the story both a safe remove and an emotional urgency.

152. The Future by Degrees by Jay Lake (aka jaylake) Lake's tale looks at the development of a new energy source that would cut our reliance on fossil fuels. The main character is a salesman who is first tasked with convincing farmers that this new source is the way to go ... until he discovers he's in the middle of some high-stakes poli-corporate intrigue. Lake doesn't drag the set-up out, nor does he rush the action. There's a strong balance here that feels very reminiscent of "Three Days of the Condor." In my book, that's a compliment.

153. Drinking Problem by K.D. Wentworth I have a co-worker who, given the chance, will rage on about how the legitimate metals recycling efforts of the 80s became a cult-religion with the paper recycling programs of the present day. I really should pass this story on to him. In Wentworth's tale, metals recycling is replaced by "bonding" with the can of beer you purchase -- the can imprints on you and you can never buy another, just refill the can you've got. This of course leads to bigger problems for the main character (who admittedly comes across as a bit of a jerk at the story's start) than just where his next beer is coming from. This might be the most comical (and by that I mean darkly-comic) tale in the anthology.

154. Endosymbiont by Blake Charlton Someone in this anthology had to take on the issue of medical advances. Charlton does so, focusing on a sixteen year old cancer patient in a long-term care ward.  This is, I think, the one story in the book that I feel like I can't talk about what most worked for me because it involves reveals about where the story ultimately goes that I think would ruin the reader's enjoyment of the story. Suffice to say the story moved me greatly, gave me some hope, and scared me just a little bit as well.

155. A Dance Called Armageddon by Ken MacLeod War. What is it good for?  Well, in Ken MacLeod's case it's good for the set-up for a story about those who wait while war goes on. Focusing on a pub full of Scots in the middle of London (I think, anyway -- I'm not sure the author actually mentions the city by name and don't have my Nook handy to check) trying to enjoy some folk-roots music as the Faith War (between the US and Muslim nations) starts to boil to a final confrontation. This might actually be the most controversial story in the book because of what it seems to imply (whether the author intended it or not; I don't like putting motivations in author's mouths) about the US's future as a military power.

156. Arties Aren't Stupid by Jeremiah Tolbert I'm a little confused about the world-building of Tolbert's story. I'm not sure if the division of younger people into "castes" (for lack of a better term) is due to rampant gene-modding in the womb (i.e. "I want my child to be artistic/smart/athletic") or if the cause is something more global. I think I missed something in the story that clued the reader in to the background, which is probably my own fault. The story has great emotional impact though, as a story about kids who are not allowed to be who they are clearly meant to be, saddled with adults who don't care and authority figures who are literal automatons. There are a couple of heart-breaking moments.

157. Faceless in Gethsemane by Mark Budz  I'd never heard of Fusiform Prosopagnosia before reading this story. I take that back. I seem to remember reading a story many years ago, perhaps in The New Yorker, in which a character had FP and had to negotiate a world in which he could not recognize anyone because he could not "process" faces. I just had no idea FP was the name of that particular problem. In this story, Budz posits a world in which people -- largely artists, it seems -- voluntarily choose FP as a way of cutting pre-conceived notions/prejudices out of the way the interact with people. The public's reaction is not favorable, as the main character of this story discovers when his sister, who has undergone Voluntary FP, comes to visit. Because Different = Bad, even when that Difference equalizes everybody.

158. Spider the Artist by Nnedi Okorafor  Other than the introduction of robot "spiders" who prowl/"protect" oil pipelines from local inhabitants who might want to disrupt the flow or steal the oil, Nnedi Okorafor's story could take place right now. Replace the robots with humans guards and the gist is the same: corporate greed (moreso than our dependence on fossil fuels, although that plays a part as well) is destroying the culture and environment in Nigeria. The main character is a woman who somehow manages to emotionally rise above the crappy life around her (and it is profoundly crappy, from a brutal husband to local illness and more) through music, which also seems to have an effect on the spider-guard she encounters behind her house. I can't say more without spoiling the ending.

159. Resistance by Tobias S. Buckell  Buckell's is the one story in the book that moves off Earth, to a colony that seems to have fallen under the bootheel of a malevolent Big Brother-type artificial intelligence. I'm the first to admit I know very little about the hard science behind any of these stories, but I can easily see a future in which our current mania for "one-click shopping" based on previous purchases leads to us passing more important decisions on to our computer surrogates so we can attend to day-to-day life. Buckell's future is a convincing one, and he does a great job of expressing this world-building through the eyes of a main character who finds himself on the crux of History (yes, with a capital H).
Tags: buckell, budz, charlton, kosmatka, lake, macleod, okorafor, tolbert, wentworth
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