Posts tagged ‘Short story’

November 24, 2013

Short Story Review: “Flash Bang Remember” by Tina Connolly and Caroline M Yoachim

Lightspeed Science Fiction and Fantasy, Issue 27, August 2012

Could you imagine having no memories of your own? I can’t but Girl 23 of “Flash Bang Remember” doesn’t have to imagine that is her destiny. Girl 23 is one of many young girls that grow up with the sole purpose of creating memories that will eventually be shared among the group of people who live on her spaceship. Unlike the other girls, Girl 23 doesn’t want to have her memories shared with the group instead she wants to keep them for herself. “Flash Bang Remember” doesn’t is an enjoyable science fiction story with romance, action, suspense, a strong female lead and likeable characters.

There is more to science than just the mechanics, there is the question of how will it affect humans and is it ethical. “Flash Bang Remember” asks the moral questions about cloning and memory transfer. Connolly and Yoachim don’t spend a lot of time talking about how to make a clone or even what the cloning room looks like, but they do spend a lot of time showing us how it affects our main character, Girl 23 and The Child. The most moving scene is at the end of the story when Girl 23 has to go back into the pod to have her memory rebooted. They don’t just say tell us it happens, they drag us through it every painful and terrifying step that Girl 23 feels. I appreciated that part the most because I don’t know if I couldn’t have imagined what they wrote.

Girl 23 is one of my favorite characters. It would have been very easy for her to become of my least favorite characters but instead she proves to be a cleaver, strong and determined young woman who is only searching for the same thing we all are – our identity. I think she is a role model for young women because she doesn’t seek out external acceptance and she is able to stay mentally strong and focused when others dismiss her. Also, her character doesn’t whine about her situation instead she sets out to do something about it even though she is aware of the Catch-22.

Overall, I highly recommend this story. Connolly and Yoachim propose an interesting question in this era of individualism glorification about what defines identity. Some say it is our memories that make us individual each person experiences things differently, but if we all have the same memory of how something feels and smells is there still individualism? The story also allows for the reader to pose other questions about how important is childhood, how much of actually doing something is important to learning and should those who seek to be different be made to be mold to the collective. Even though this is a short story there is a lot for the reader to consider.

November 15, 2013

Short Story Review: The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees by E. Lily Yu

I read ‘The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees’ short story a couple of months ago, when I was reading the “Best of Science Fiction and Fantasy for 2012.” It is the second story in the collection after Neil Gaiman, which says a lot about the writer’s ability to follow him. I had never heard of Ms. Yu and didn’t know about the success of the story or the way it is received by readers; I am thankful for my naïvety. For anyone who hasn’t read this story, I say stop now and read the story here on Clarkesworld.com don’t let the opinion of others define how the story will affect you.  It is a beautifully written story with hidden and obvious themes. Enjoy it and let your mind come to its own conclusions.

The things that first drew me into this story were the pace and the genre. I’m a huge fan of the fairy tale as a learning tool because the characters and setting are easily changeable to fit whatever setting you choose but the moral stays the same. A good fairy tale moves along at a pace differently from a novel or a short story, it has the ability to whisk you away on a journey and leave the reader contemplating its meaning and how it can be reflected in their own lives.  In ‘The Cartographer Wasps…’ Yu spends just enough time describing the settings, characters and actions to bring it to life and express her ideas but not bring down the mood, flow or sound preachy.

I don’t like when I get to the end of the story and feel the need to flip back, expecting more. I expect this from a novel, but I don’t from my short fiction. ‘The Cartographer Wasps…’ does exactly this in a good way. The story ends a little while after the last bees have managed to end the war with the wasps. Another group of bees not a part of the original conflict come across the anarchist bee writings and they are inspired. Yu doesn’t explain what they are inspired to do with this knowledge it is left up to the reader to make this judgment and that I can appreciate.  Colonialism, dictatorship, revolution and anarchy have had profound impacts on civilizations and just like in life after the major conflict is over it is up to us to create the ending we want to live.

‘The Cartographer Wasps…’ was nominated for the Hugo Award in 2012, so it was reviewed by several review websites. I am mentioning two of their websites in particular for their opposite reviews on the same story. I knew I wanted to write a review for this story as soon as I finished it but I like many found myself stumped at the ending thus it took me awhile to write one. The blog “Promethus UnBound,” believes that the story “warns of the transitive and cyclical nature of violence from thoughtless destruction to calculated imperialism.” It’s some pretty heavy declarations but the writer, Geoffrey Allan Plauche, then goes on to highlight how the story supports his theory.  The blog “Talkfiction” delves into the levels of allegorical meaning in the story in regards to revolution, subjugation, power of education, colonialism, and the desire for survival.

Overall I truly enjoyed ‘The Cartographer Wasps…’ and the reviews on the story. It takes a powerful story to inspire the reader to focus on the message behind it over the way it was written. Most of the time it is easy to focus on the writing style of the writer, I feel it stands out more than the idea behind the story, but not this time. I highly recommend this short story.

October 3, 2013

Short Story Review: “First Contact with Gorgonids “ by Ursula K LeGuin

 

#HRLeGuin

 

Last month, I picked up a copy of “A Fisherman of the Inland Sea” by Ursula K LeGuin,  a collection of short stories that were published between 1990 and 1994 in various publications.  When it comes to conversations about amazing women who write Science Fiction, Ursula K LeGuin always comes up. I’ve never read anything of hers but I have appreciated her contribution to the genre and society.  “The First Contact with Gorgonids” was originally published in 1991 by Omni magazine.

 

“The First Contact with Gorgonids “ is a story about Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Debree who are on vacation in Australia when they mistakenly end up on the wrong road and face-to-face with the aliens Gorgonids.  This is a very enjoyable short story. It is part thriller and humor. Our heroine triumphs not from any difficult trials but from being smart where her husband is foolish and selfish.

 

The story uses cliché characters which lets the story begin quickly and easily.  The reader isn’t required to get to know these characters habits, back-story, or personalities instead LeGuin draws on social stereotypes to create the basis of the character. I liked this use of clichés. The true beauty of a story is how a character changes, if your short story is going to be tight you have to make the best of not only what you bring to the page but what the reader will bring.

 

LeGuin uses smart humor to define Mrs. Jerry Debree as a strong female lead that provides a different take on the cliched idea of what a woman is like in a verbally abusive relationship. Within the first three paragraphs LeGuin shows the reader to not under estimate our heroine. She is smart and clever, and able to manipulate her husband to get what she needs from him either emotionally or physically. The mocking tones of other characters, Mr. Debree actions and aside reflections of Mrs. Debree show Mr. Jerry Debree’s deficiencies and Mrs. Jerry Debree’s strengthens.

 

Overall, this is a great short story. It isn’t long and weighted down in ideas or metaphors. I love how LeGuin isn’t afraid to deal with social issues and have fun with them.  LeGuin developed a setting that was believable and easy to imagine. (Yes, I said believable even with the aliens.) The dialogue is easy to navigate and understand from a European background. I am eager to continue “A Fisherman of the Inland Sea.”

July 20, 2013

Review: Analog: Science Fiction and Fact

Issue: September 2013

Normally I only review books, but this month I thought I would try something different. I got a gift card for Christmas and this month I used it to buy some science fiction magazines. I bought the current issues of Analog, and Fantasy and Science Fiction. This review is only going to cover Analog and next month I will review Fantasy and Science Fiction.

 

I started reading Analog last year mainly for the short fiction. This issue I really enjoyed for several reasons. The short story section was just perfect for me this month. My favorite of the three stories was “Life of the Author Plus Seventy” by Kenneth Schneyer. This story hit home with me on several levels. The story is narrated by the protagonist Eric Weiss a writer who published one novel with mediocre success. This novel becomes his downfall, but not in the way you would suspect with hilarious outcomes. I enjoyed the writers tone and development of the story. It was really easy to imagine that I was sitting next to Eric Weiss in a dingy bar as he retold me this story. The science in the story is hibernation and artificial intelligence.

 

The other two short stories are “Full Fathom Five” by Joe Pitkins and “Creatures from a Blue Lagoon” by Liz J. Anderson. “Full Fathom Five” is a good story with two female lead characters a human scientist, Maria, and an A.I intelligence Ariel. This story contemplates an interesting idea about coming into contact with a new alien and the possibility that by simply coming into contact with it you kill it. The A.I reminds me of Hal but not as creepy. This is a hard science story that centers on biology.  In “Creatures from a Blue Lagoon” Dr. Jesmuhr is an intergalactic veterinarian called on to help the Zarjassians when their food animal “Floobar” stops eating. This is another story with a female A.I intelligence. While this story isn’t as funny to me “Life of the Author Plus Seventy” there are some chuckle moments. It’s a good story with a female lead that represents strong women well (humans otherwise).

 

The Special Feature “From Idea to Story (or why “High Concept” is only the beginning)” by Richard A. Lovett hit on something that I had been pondering for several weeks, how to take science fiction ideas and make them into compelling stories. Science fiction stories must have the science fiction element as the key element of the story. While the concept is simple enough the execution is often where science fiction stories fail. For this article Lovett interviewed regular contributors to Analog for advice and suggestions which I found useful. For writers, I would highly recommend purchasing this issue of Analog if for no other reason than this article.

 

I started reading the Novella and the Novelettes but at the writing of this post I haven’t finished them. The Novella, “Murder on the Aldrin Express” by Martin L. Shoemaker is so far good. I’m a huge fan of mystery, so I was thrilled when I saw this story. Does the title remind you of another famous story? (Hint, Hint- Orient.) The Novelette “The Whale God” by Alec Nevala-Lee is also pretty good, but I’m not sure where the story is going.

 

I tried to read the Science Fact article “The Evaporation of Worlds” but it was too boring for me. It sounded like it probably has some really good information but I just couldn’t make it through the first column.

 

When I make it through the other stories I’ll add my comments to this post.

 

Cheers.