Lois Tilton reviews Short Fiction, late December
Finishing up the year, although some of the zines are running way ahead of me: Analog is up to its March 2011 issue.
My favorite story this time is “The Choice” by Paul McAuley, from Asimov’s.
- Asimov’s, February 2011
- Analog, March 2011
- Beneath Ceaseless Skies, #57-#59, December 2010
- Tor.com, December 2010
- Fantasy Magazine, December 2010
- Strange Horizons, December 2010
- Lightspeed, December 2010
Asimov’s, February 2011
In which we find a theme of dysfunctional families.
“Out of the Dream Closet” by David Ira Cleary
Some time near the end of the world, there seem only to be three people alive, all posthuman, and one of them is about to turn himself off. The Papa is almost a thousand years old and his failing body is sprouting fleshy growths all over. His daughter Sasha calls herself Little Girl because the Papa froze her body at age 10 and won’t let her grow up, maintaining that ten is the perfect age for happiness, despite her manifest unhappiness. Her mother accidentally fell into the Earth’s core and has since manifested in the sky as a cloud, raining angry moods.
…the rainwater was thick with moods, infused with sadness, shot-through with distress; it hurt to work her lungs when they seemed bound by barbed wire to terrible thoughts, to the memory of the dead Papa’s head flopping down, to stories of genocide and suns gone supernova, to the countless tragedies of the billion billion souls who formed the Earth’s crust but which were otherwise forgotten.
The Papa wants Sasha to take over the task of soothing the cloudmind, but she would rather mess around with salvaged soul recordings, which is forbidden under the terms of the Papa’s will.
There’s a whole lot of fantastic skiffy stuff going on here, but essentially it’s the story of a dysfunctional family who love each other in futile and destructive ways. All the neat futuristic wonders only emphasize that no matter how we change ourselves and the world, our fundamental emotional needs remain the same.
“The Choice” by Paul McAuley
In a drowned, postapocalyptic world, two boys hear the news of an alien sea dragon grounded nearby, and they sail over to take a look at it.
A cluster of people were conferring among a scatter of toolboxes and a portable generator, and one of them stepped forward and applied an angle grinder to the dragon’s hide. There was a ragged screech and a fan of orange sparks sprayed out and the man stepped back and turned to his companions and shook his head. Beyond the dragon, dozens more people could be glimpsed through the blur of the fret: everyone from the little town of Martham must have walked out along the sand bar to see the marvel that had cast itself up at their doorstep.
The army shows up and takes over, setting a charge to blow the dragon open. A shard of alien dragon stabs into Damian’s arm. Selling the piece of dragon stuff would be worth a lot of money, and could also cost someone’s life. Damian, desperate to escape his abusive father, is determined to take the chance; Lucas, with his dying mother to care for, refuses to become involved. But events reach out for him, despite his choice.
McAuley does a fine job with this realistic setting, filled with shrimp farms, bioengineered seaweed, and homemade boats, and with the characters who live there on the hard terms that the transformed world imposes.
“Brother Sleep” by Tim McDaniel
Horse comes from a working-class family, the first to be given the treatment that keeps him from needing sleep, the first to be able to go to university, even a third-rate one, but he seems to spend most of his time playing videos, eating, and hanging out with his girlfriend Sky. He’s ashamed of his family and dodges their calls. His roommate Increase needs to sleep; he’s falling behind because he doesn’t have time to study. Horse mocks the sleeping Increase, but he’s doing no better himself, despite his advantage.
I couldn’t do that. My family had taken that option from me, and I’d been so happy that they had. But I had to live nearly every minute of my life, and every minute all that was in my head was Sky, laughing and throwing her head back and sitting on that guy’s lap. There was no place I could run away to. I suddenly wanted to hit Increase.
This is a story about class, status, social expectations. Horse is a loser by nature, Increase from circumstances. I have trouble believing, however, that any housing office would place a sleeper in the same room with a nonsleeper. It’s worse than smoking!
“Eve of Beyond” by Bill Pronzini and Barry N Malzberg
The eponymous firm was Kampman’s own brainchild:
A Message for All Advanced Seniors: Why throw away your hard-earned savings on clothing you will most likely wear for only a short time? For a fraction of the price charged by most retail outlets, Eve of Beyond will provide you with beautiful non-durable tunics and other garments guaranteed not to outlast you, and which your heirs can, without guilt, embarrassment, or financial loss, simply discard after your passage.
But now his greedy son wants to accept a takeover bid from an unscrupulous company, spurning Kampman’s legacy. And worse.
The authors are deliberately vague about the nature of the megacorporate devourer; this is essentially a metaphorical for the devourers of today.
“Planet of the Sealies” by Jeff Carlson
Humanity has almost become extinct. Only a few polar colonies have survived the plagues, but their biological diversity is dangerously limited; only a few cloned lines exist. This is why they are mining the urban landfills, in search of the biological treasure contained in discarded diapers. Seeing the waste makes Joanna angry.
Her home colony wasted nothing, recycling even their urine to maintain the nitrogen levels in their box farms. The line culture was not only genetically poor. For generations they had overcome energy shortages and cold and isolation. The wealth discarded here was staggering.
But Joanna’s real concern is that away from home, she has begun to develop some of the dangerous individuality of thought that characterized the breeders. She knows she may have to be culled.
The image of mining for diapers is a striking one, worth the entire story.
“Shipbirth” by Aliette de Bodard
Aztecs in space. A future in which organic spacecraft are run by cybernetic Minds, which must first be brought to term in a human womb. This is an uncertain process. The women who bear the Minds take great risks, but their rewards are likewise great. Acoimi’s mother and sister both carried Minds, but when her sister died attempting to give birth, Acoimi changed her sex to male and tried to join the warriors.
Oh, but it wasn’t courage, not at all. It wasn’t blood-lust, or the desire to fight, or even ambition. What it boiled down to — once the skin had been flensed, the bones picked clean — was a simple enough matter.
It was just fear.
However, when the violence repelled him he failed as a warrior and became a physician. Now he is summoned to an unquickened ship where the Mind has failed at birth; he must determine if the woman who bore it can be saved.
This is a scenario the author has used in other works, such as this one in Interzone #231. Here, even more so, the narrative is overwhelmingly backstory, of which there is on the one hand too much and on the other, not enough to let us really understand who such a complex character like Acoimi really is. It’s the case of a novel’s worth of story crammed into a tenth the size it should be.
“Waster Mercy” by Sara Genge
Brother Beussy has gone out of the safety of the Paris dome on a personal pilgrimage into the Waste, to do penance for the colonialist missionary crimes of the past. His pilgrimage is cut short when a Waster trap disables his vehicle, breaking his ankle. The Waster is a crippled boy, a consummate survivor, who think Beussy is crazy to refuse his offer of a merciful death. But the priest’s doctrine considers martyrdom a failure, and he bargains for his life, for death by natural causes.
I, too, think the strictures of Beussy’s order are pretty crazy, if they prefer death at the jaws of the hyenas to human agency. But this is religion, which rarely makes sense. The scenario is one that the author’s readership should find familiar from previous stories here; others may find themselves wondering.
Analog, March 2011
A disappointing issue after the Jan/Feb double. A lot of minor, weak stories, and even the strongest don’t rise to the award-worthy level.
“Betty Knox and Dictionary Jones in the Mystery of the Missing Teenage Anachronisms” by John G Hemry
Time travelers returning to the mid-1960s, when they were teenagers, have suffered some unexplained mishap and disappeared. Jim Jones has been sent to follow Betty Knox to discover the reason for their failure to alter history. Most of the time, though, they complain about the mores of 1964 and the angst of being 15 at that period in time.
This is a pretty silly story with a lot of predictable dull speeches about the past. As the characters realize there is very little that teenagers of that time can do to make significant changes, readers realize that whoever conceived this project were incompetent, not to see this themselves and not to give their agents any specific goals. It’s one thing to know that people are going to screw up the world, but quite another to understand how to keep this from happening.
“Rule Book” by Paul Carlson
Robophile Claude is a trucker who resents the politicians who want to restrict robots in order to preserve human jobs. The same politicians are responsible for enacting a myriad of petty and onerous regulations in the name of security and environment. Claude and his buddy Mek have delivered a truckload of ice cream to the fair, to be given away after the Mayor’s speech, but the Mayor’s regulations prove self-sabotaging as an officious cop orders Mek to shut off the refrigeration engine.
“Better zip your lips, if you had any. That’s an order.” The patrolman pointed his nightstick at the cooler unit. “Hurry it up, tin-head, or I’ll halt this violation myself.”
The first two-thirds of this piece are merely tedious, as Claude shows us around the setting and shows off his robots. Once we finally get to the main action, the contrived nature of the piece becomes even more evident, as robophile Good Guys and robophobe Bad Guys play out their clichéd roles with as much subtlety as a falling anvil.
“Astronomic Distance, Geologic Time” by Bud Sparhawk
A sort of non-story saying that the cycle of life goes on and at some point includes puppies.
“Falls the Firebrand” by Sarah Young
A survey team lands on an alien world in search of a seed ship from another civilization, whose nanotech they covet. But the world already has a civilization of its own, which is now doomed.
She thought of Dove’s Planet, where a seed ship blasted sterile by interstellar winds had landed. It was a world of metal now, continents covered from one seashore to the other by cities, its ecosystem fighting a long defeat against the empty city’s nanofactories.
A sketch of a story in which the characters manifest little agency, mostly acting as witnesses to events they are unable to change. Happily, the ending takes a turn away from the predictable.
“Julie is Three” by Craig DeLancey
The narrator is a doctor faced with the case of a child whose parents have been killed in a car accident. She is manifesting signs of multiple personality disorder, which makes him believe she is the victim of long-term abuse. The hospital administrator wants him to send her to a mental hospital, but the girl’s aunt, who wants custody, insists that their family has always been like this, and it’s perfectly normal, perhaps even a beneficial mutation. People in her family are never lonely; they have themselves for company.
An interesting notion, and DeLancey portrays it credibly.
As I was opening the door, I heard the clack of a checkers piece. I looked back. She was reaching across herself and awkwardly using her right hand to arrange a black piece. There was a pause, and then with the right hand she moved a red piece.
The outcome, however, isn’t really ever in doubt. Nice touch with the title, evoking the classic Sturgeon story, as well as Ellison’s.
“Hiding from Nobel” by Brad Aiken
Twenty-five years ago, the narrator and his buddies were kids at camp when Jeffrey had an accident and suffered brain damage that would have killed him if a weird stranger hadn’t suddenly appeared. Now they learn that the weird stranger had injected him with experimental nanites made from material stolen from a secret government lab, making him essentially immortal.
While this story is framed in a nostalgic reunion between the old buddies, with lots of reminiscence, the secret is told at second hand from the video that Jeffrey made from his interview with the stranger, who revealed it at last out of a sense of guilt. This makes the situation remote; the emotional charge of the nostalgia doesn’t carry through to the problems of immortality, with which we never really engage.
“Taboo” by Jerry Oltion
The complications of life extension, particularly when the long-lived don’t bother with their memory modules. Edward meets McKenna at an art gallery, and they hit it off.
“It’s refreshing to talk about it with someone who understands. It’s the elephant in the room most times with people over a hundred. I think we all expect each other to be superhuman, and we’re secretly embarrassed to be simply human.”
But the two of them turn out to have met before, much earlier in their lives, and this creates a problem.
A neat notion that will probably shock some readers into questioning some assumptions. I felt a bit of a jolt myself, and that takes something.
Beneath Ceaseless Skies, #57 – #59, December 2010
Six stories in this extended month, in which the editor has done his bit to redress the gender imbalance in fantasy authors: five of these stories are by males.
“The Suffering Gallery” by Matthew Kressel
Atleiu, a serpentine beast with a hairy insectoid head, sat on her radiant throne, her long black tail trailing away like a river of oil. Beside her writhed Mielbok, the Billion-Toothed Maggot, his two pink eyes rheumy with pus.
Atleiu feeds on pain, which she extracts from her larder full of tortured victims. The maggot is a parasite, begging for scraps and stealing them when he dares, during her lengthy periods of repose. Among the demon’s victims is the son of a sorcerer who keeps making futile excursions in an attempt to destroy her and rescue the boy. But her bane lies elsewhere.
It’s interesting to consider the relationship between a parody and its target. The best parodies are true to the object they are mocking. With its overthetoppitude of empurpled prose, Kressel’s piece is definitely a parody of sword-and-sorcery fiction, but it is otherwise true to the S&S conventions and winds up with a very satisfactory conclusion.
“A Bounty Split Three Ways” be Peter Kovic
The narrator is a farmboy on the mudplain, where everyone makes a meager living growing mudsoy. He loves the girl from the next farm and makes a bad bargain with the local wizard; when he fails to make the payment, the wizard takes Jenny. To get her back, he has to bring the head of the wizard’s enemy Silas. The narrator embarks on a fantastic quest in partnership with another bounty hunter, following Silas’s purewhite skyboat through portal after portal into strange cities and lands.
The giant mirror shattered and reformed as we leapt through it. We were running, weapons out, across another stone bridge, beneath another black void, across another limitless sea of lava. Waiting for us at the far end was a tremendous stone arch. Real, not a reflection. We raced through it, jumping unknown hundreds or thousands of miles.
Whenever he has to face a new hazard, he reminds himself of Jenny.
Not a parody, but a neat twist on the standard heroic fantasy, with an imaginative, fantastic setting, interesting characters, lively dialogue, and a perfect conclusion.
“Red Dirt” by Ian McHugh
In an altered 1792, French Capitaine Bruni brings his ship and mutinous crew into a Dutch port in Australia, where they all find their sleep disturbed by strange dreams, purportedly cast by the indigenes.
I found myself once again upon the red dirt plain. This time I stood at the foot of the massif. The face of the nearest giant stone rose, sheer, just beyond the reach of my fingertips. At such proximity, I could see that it was layered in subtle shades of red: rust, blood, ember and brick. Its voice vibrated through my ribs, overwhelming the laboured beat of my heart.
Worse, the strangeness seems to be pursuing them into reality as one sailor is found dead, with his shadow stolen. The crew demands that they leave the place, but the ship needs resupply, and the local commissariat is taken advantage of the situation to jack up the prices, which Bruni refuses to pay.
There is a striking contrast between this almost-historical fantasy and the demons and wizards in the surrounding stories. It is quite human and therefore genuinely frightening, as the capitaine’s stubbornness takes a deadly toll.
“Lession’s Tower” by Fox McGeever
The people of the City of Roses are fools. The author may not think so, but I do. When they capture demons, instead of killing them, they hack off their wings and imprison them in a tower where they starve for want of proper human meat. But Lession has managed to contrive artificial wings, and when the wind comes up he escapes to prey upon the city’s children.
The premise of this one might have had some promise in answering the question where gargoyles come from, but the execution is poor. It’s absurd that the humans would have failed to eliminate such a risk to their people and especially their children, and particularly when they seem to know just when he will escape and hunt again. The trap they lay for Lession depends far too much on chance. And the author’s prose is awkward: “the wind blasted across the parapet, whistling through the skulls that dangled on ropes from the stone basin that capped the tower.”
“The Summer King” by Megan Arkenberg
“The King must die.” In a sort of alternate revolutionary Paris, the ruling Assembly has appointed a King to deflect the discontent of the population from themselves. The local ward bosses take this as a threat, so Livy decides the only solution is to pre-emptively kill the King.
It was like that old tradition they’d had back when I was a girl, of making some kid the King or Queen of May—May was like Floréal or Prairial back then, I can’t remember which — but anyway, we’d make this kid a crown of flowers and he or she would read speeches and poems and all that kind of shit, and like as not they’d get beaten up by the older kids on the way home from Acacey.
Now I don’t believe for a minute that Livy is actually going to kill the king because she keeps going on about how gorgeous he is, until they are on the way to having an affair. I also don’t believe in the political situation: real ward bosses have staffs of underlings and thugs to take care of such matters, when Livy apparently has only herself. And they also have rivals who scheme to take over when a boss absents herself from her turf. And kings have officious entourages and minders who keep them from making inconvenient friends. In fact, this story fails to convince me of anything. The idea had promise, but the execution fails. It’s a political story where the politics makes no sense.
“Transitions of Truth and Tears” by David G Blake
Garran was chosen in childhood to be a weapon for She Who Is All, who may be a goddess. His mission is vengeance on the men and the place who martyred her son, from the place of whose death a sacred fountain now flows. But Garran has doubts, because the people he has been sent to destroy do not seem evil.
The [statue’s] eyes did not seem cruel and cunning either but rather kind and wise. It was an unsettling variance. The man had likely monitored the sculpting of the statue, of course, which would account for the added height and the softness of his eyes. Men with cruel and cunning eyes, however, rarely were ashamed of them.
This is a story about the problem of truth. It’s clear that there are two versions of the events about to become myth, and that the only version Garran knows may not be the true one. As readers, we don’t know the truth; we’re only told the version Garran has been taught, and all we can tell is that it might be too bad to be true. Here’s the problem: it isn’t credible that Garran could have spent so long among the people who worship what he has been sent to destroy and still have no hint what the alternative version might be. His doubts have no foundation in evidence.
Tor.com, December 2010
“Sweetheart” by Abbey Mei Otis
Xenophobia. The narrator’s young son Paxton [Pax, “your peacetime child”] has a crush on the alien next door, antennae and clicking mandibles and all. It’s cute. Until someone gets up a campaign against aliens, a scheme to unite humanity against a common Other. Sweetheart has to go.
I’m sorry, Pax, you think. I’m sorry, Sweetheart. But you’re not. You’ve seen humans killing humans, and if something can stop that it’s worth it. It’s worth tantrums. Worth a first crush. Worth all the aliens in the universe.
There’s moral ambiguity in this very short piece, because readers may take at face value the narrator’s declaration that a broken childhood crush is worth it for “a world at peace.” Peace on Earth = Good, right? Of course the story is not really about aliens with clicking mandibles, it’s about our history of using the Other Human as a scapegoat. It’s about knocks on the door at night and internment camps and the Two Minutes Hate. We might also reflect that xenophobic campaigns are usually created as an excuse for war, and in this case an interstellar war, not a peace. Because it’s one thing if we could actually trade off oppression of some Other for a genuine peace, another if it only initiates more war.
But this sort of story has to work on the literal level, too; if you’re going to use giant bugs, they have to made some sense. And in this case the problematic issue is not how society turns against the aliens, but how giant bugs have come to live in the house next door, how they can go to the water park without, apparently, a single murmur of comment.
“The Trains that Climb the Winter Tree” by Michael Swanwick and Eileen Gunn
A nightmare before Christmas. Back in the days of electric trains and balsa wood models, the elves kill all the adults one Christmas Eve and take their places, delivering Christmas bounty worthy of Jack Skellington. The oldest boy comes downstairs early to discover the wonders.
Roland froze in the doorway, letting Christmas morning wrap its glittery tentacles of light about him. The tree was a vast darkness spangled with multicolored stars brighter than anything in the winter sky. The packages that Jolly Father Nicholas had piled so high were candy-colored, troll-haunted mountains! And through them ran a train.
The train runs up the Christmas tree, which has now become the Winter Tree [I suspect it may actually be the World Tree Yggdrasil], and Roland, wondering where it disappears to, unwisely climbs onboard, whereupon he is taken to the Odinish Lord Snow and put into a cage. His sister Sasha has a strong but vague sense that something is wrong, but she has forgotten she had a brother named Roland until the dog, Mr Chesterton, tells her she must embark on a quest to rescue him.
There are so many allusions echoing through this one that it makes my mental ears ring — far too many to mention; readers should enjoy picking them out. As this seems clearly to be a dream, nothing needs to make sense, and Roland, a character whose thoughts are interesting, is perfectly cool with this, but it bothers Sasha. In this sort of story, we expect the child protagonist to prevail; it’s a matter of definition whether this actually happens. I suspect the authors had a lot of fun getting their characters up the tree, but, like a cat, got kind of caught when it came to getting them down. When it’s a dream, though, you can get away with that.
Fantasy Magazine, December 2010
Only one story in this round I really liked. In fact, my liking ran downhill throughout the month.
“Holdfast” by Matthew Johnson
A world where farmers employ a battery of homely spells to ensure the cows give milk, the draft animals are strong, the fruit doesn’t rot on the trees. Irrel is particularly good with knots, and together with his wife they once crafted a very strong holdfast. But she is now dead and the children are growing up, seeking their own paths; his son would like to learn to be a wizard.
“A wizard’s just a crafter who doesn’t make anything useful. Your mam could craft a candle that brought warmth to anyone in the home, a shoe that made a horse never stumble and jam that let you remember the day the berries were picked: That’s magic enough.”
A charming, simple piece with more emotional depth than readers might at first expect. I very much like the finger spells, and also the incident when war dragons fly overhead and the neighborhood farmers all rush to gather the wyrm manure.
“The Gold Silkworm” by Tony Pi
Former swordswoman Yan Xue is now bonded to Cao Shen, the Spirit of Grass, which enables them to work as a healer, although they are still working out the two minds in one body thing. They discover that wealthy Master Ke has been infected by a malign spirit with a toxic spell in the form of a gold silkworm. The two spirits do battle through the surrogacy of fighting crickets.
Too much backstory about these characters burdens this tale, and the backstory actually sounds more interesting than the current events.
“Malleus, Incus, Stapes” by Sarah Totten
Jack is crazy in love with Lillian.
Jack had been writing poems for Lillian, but they’d all come out tangled, embarrassing messes. What were words to her anyway? If he gave her something she could touch, something special that meant something to him, then things would be different.
Jack finds a crate that once belonged to his dead father, containing several bone artifacts that the reader instantly recognizes as sinister. He gives one of them to Lillian, only belatedly to realize his mistake when he learns that his father had been taught a dark art.
I think Jack should have gone with flowers. The bone boat, as the author describes it, seems a definitely unsuitable love gift for a young girl. But the conclusion makes it clear that Jack is willing to sacrifice a great deal for Lillian. I hope she’s worth it.
“The Boy Who Made Stars” by Eliza Chan
A world with contemporary technology but where everyone carries oil lanterns at night because there are no stars and the moon has acne. The moon is lonely and self-pitying and wants to play with Motoki. As invented myth goes, this one is pretty lame, as well as misleading. Motoki didn’t invent the stars; if anyone, the moon did. If the moon had come to earth to play, why was it too dark to see it? People will still have to carry oil lanterns when the moon wanes. I think they would be better off inventing street lights, because they already have electricity.
Strange Horizons, December 2010
A shortened month at year’s end with only three stories posted. A theme of love and the artificial mind.
“Lily” by Emily Gilman
Some time ago, John stole a lot of data from a lab planning to make war machines. His wife Dolores challenged him to do something real with it, so he built Lily. All the while, he’s been on the run and apart from Dolores, but now he’s finally taking Lily to meet her “mother.”
Another tale of love and the artificial mind, told in alternating sections from John’s point of view and Lily’s voice, groping at emotions. Competently done, but nothing really new.
I do not feel any different. But she doesn’t want to be alone, and she doesn’t want me to be alone, and I don’t want to be alone, and I think I don’t want her to be alone either. Somehow, that makes a difference — perhaps we can be alone together.
“Zookrollers Winkelden Ook” by Tracey Canfield
Jason’s husband Ethan was a very popular author, and his publisher thought it would be a good idea to record him for a backup sim, Just In Case. But Ethan was killed in an accident soon after the recording was made, and an unscrupulous technician made unauthorized copies. Now the world is full of Ethan sims, and a lot of them keep trying to contact Jason, unaware that they are not real. After a while, Jason can’t stand to look at the stuffed fox that was Ethan’s mascot and a token of their love, after so many of the sims kept asking about it.
Foolishly, Jason felt better when it was done, because if anything happened to Ethan he’d still be around. A little of him.
A well-done look at grief and loss, violated, as well as the issue of wondering whether you can know if you are a simulation. As Ethan’s lawyer tells Jason, a lot of pirates are doing it “just to be assholes.” And that’s sad.
“Salsa Nocturna” by Daniel José Older
Gordo is an underemployed musician who takes a gig as night caretaker in a place for abused kids. Now, Gordo is cool with the ghosts coming at night to jam and dance with him, but one night they don’t show up, and that does scare him. He finds one of the kids missing from his room, only to track him down to the boiler room surrounded by dead kids listening to his music.
The song filled the heavy boiler room air, so familiar and so brand-new. It was a mambo, but laced with the saddest melody I’ve ever heard — some unholy union of Mozart and Perez Prado that seemed to speak of so many drunken nights and whispered promises. It tore into me, devoured me and pieced me back together a brand new man.
A memorable character in Gordo; his strong voice makes this ghost story.
Lightspeed, December 2010
Some less probable incidents in the future.
“In-fall” by Ted Kosmatka
A young terrorist is captured, interrogated, refuses to give up the names they want. He is confident in his impending martyrdom, his eternal reward. His enemies apparently want the names very badly, because they shoot him into a supermassive black hole.
“You still don’t understand. The line isn’t where we die; it’s where time itself ceases to function — where the universe breaks, all matter and energy coming to a halt, frozen forever on that final mathematical boundary. You will never get your afterlife, not ever. Because you will never die.”
If science fiction is the literature of ideas, this is the implication of an idea of physics for religion. It doesn’t go much beyond this, as a story, and it strains credibility if considered as a practical method. But it does give pause for thought on a purely speculative level.
“Jenny’s Sick” by David Tallerman
In a world where disease has been eradicated, the narrator’s ex-lover Jenny is sick. Her illness is the craving for illness. She takes drugs to artificially induce diseases. The narrator is busy with his own life, his career, he doesn’t want to get involved; he moves out. A couple of years later, he sees that she’s been cured, which prompts an epiphany. I can’t say that it’s an epiphany I’m moved to share.
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