Aug 3, 2010

Fast Fiction Friday: Tidhar, Ballingrud, Bobet, Sanford

This week's Fast Fiction Friday (I know it's on a Tuesday, give me a break, this weekend was gorgeous) is a long one as I've been doing some reading for Part 5 of Authors Worth Watching. 8 stories in total from Lavie Tidhar, Nathan Ballingrud, Leah Bobet, and Jason Sanford. In the interest of time, the reviews are going to be short but sweet.

Where Away You Fall - Jason Sanford

Originally published in Analog: Science Fiction and Fact, December 2008. Available as a PDF on Sanford's website here.

Sanford's Where Away You Fall combines hard and social sci-fi in an interesting tale where a woman's faith prevents her from reaching heaven (so to speak). The ability to predict changes in technology is often seen as the mark of  a good science fiction writer. People hear sci-fi and think robots, aliens, and faster than light space ships. But the best science fiction contemplates realistic restructuring of social science, regardless of the technological details. Sanford demonstrates that ability here, creating a religion/cult of extremists focusing on living simply to realize an individualize goal in order to reduce the clutter that has polluted the world. Where Away You Fall is a complete story within a much larger world that could easily accommodate further exploration.

304 Adolph Hitler Strasse - Lavie Tidhar

Originally published in Clarkesworld Magazine. Available for free at here.

I read a few stories from Tidhar this week and the common thread seems to be strange but short. They are almost guerrilla in nature, making a quick strike to your imagination and then retreating, leaving you to contemplate the words long after they've ceased to flow. 304 Adolph Hitler Strasse is a short piece of alternate history in which the Nazis have won but are now suffering from the corrupting influence of the internet. A Hanzi Himmler (unsure of implied relation) born long after the Jews were erased from the earth. begins to research forbidden knowledge via the anonymity of an early BBS and eventually begins to write Jewish/Nazi slash-fic. This bizarre concept just hints at the birth of the same internet culture we participate in today but under radically circumstances. The metafictional aspect of it is particularly intriguing as Tidhar actually provides the slashfic Himmler produces within the short. I don't think the story could have been successful at a longer length but it entertains for what it is.

Jews in Antarctica - Lavie Tidhar

Originally published on Fantasy Magazine here.

Another short story but a fun one. Tidhar's Israeli roots color his fiction in a powerful way much more distinct than that of a typical American or English writer. The story starts by acknowledging that the Jewish faith believes that when the day of judgement comes, all the dead will rise. To the young male protagonist however, the lines between this religious tenet and the zombie outbreaks of popular culture are not entirely clear. When his zealous grandfather assures him that the coming of the messiah is only 5 years away, the boy resolves to be ready for the Zombie Jew Apocalypse. I loved the way Tidhar played on the naivete of a child trying to understand their faith in terms of what they know. The same story could be written about the tradition of the Catholic Eucharist and how vampiric it seems at first glance. My favorite Tidhar story from the bunch with a healthy dose of humor and a few great scenes.

The Spontaneous Knotting of an Agitated String - Lavie Tidhar

Originally published on Fantasy Magazine here.

After a pair of stories that hit his Israeli roots hard, Tidhar changes gears and explores a South Asian setting in a tale of love, loss, and longing. Even though the title appears to suggests hard sci-fi, The Spontaneous Knotting of an Agitated String barely brushes string theory, instead touching on duality of memory in the joy and pain it simultaneously and paradoxically creates. Mrs. Pongboon offers the ability to compartmentalize your most treasured or tragic thoughts inside her mystical lockets where they will stay until purposefully recalled. The Spontaneous Knotting of an Agitated String is a very bittersweet story: don't be surprised if Tidhar dredges up a few thoughts or emotions you thought you had buried away.  

Kimberly Ann Duray Is Not Afraid - Leah Bobet

Originally published at Strange Horizons. Available for free at here.

In Kimberly Ann Duray Is Not Afraid, Leah Bobet preys on reader expectations by setting up a commonly controversial topic and then going someone else entirely. The concept here is an intriguing but dangerous one that works well in the short form. Bobet wisely plays it safe by stopping the story where she does, avoiding territory that could quickly put even the most experienced author in uncharted waters. Bobet also strikes a careful balance between exposition and length, providing a launching point for the imagination but not forcing you to go into any one direction.

The Girl with the Heart of Stone - Leah Bobet

Originally published at Strange Horizons. Available for free at here.

With a decidedly mythic vibe, The Girl with the Heart of Stone tells the simple story of a girl whose heart is stolen and replaced (quite obviously from the title) by one of stone. Bobet demonstrates her range here, creating an atmosphere of "oral tradition" unlike the nonchalant realism attained in Kimberly Ann Duray Is Not Afraid. I was surprised with how different the stories were both in content and style. A lot of authors start out as one-trick ponies, often exhausting their favorite ideas and prose styles with overuse. They can get away with this at first but when their first collection reads like the same story rewritten a dozen times with different names, it's hard to deny. Leah Bobet has nothing to worry about as she demonstrates a knack for understated prose in a variety of different settings.

The Monsters of Heaven - Nathan Ballingrud

Originally published in Inferno (2009) edited by Ellen Datlow.

As I slowly work my way into Ballingrud's writing, it is becoming clear that he doesn't write horror for horror's sake as much as he uses it as a mirror for exploring character. What makes a monster a monster besides a lack of humanity, whether it is physical or emotional? The Monsters of Heaven starts off with a couple torn apart by the unexplained disappearance of their son. As Brian struggles with the guilt for not watching his son closely at the playground, his wife begins to distance herself from him in order to get the emotional support she needs. At first it seems like a generic broken family short story but the introduction of the supernatural "angels" saves it from such a fate. The origin of the angels isn't touched upon (a common occurance in Ballingrud's work) but they influence the story nonetheless, becoming a physical manifestation of everything that is unexplained, including Toby's mysterious abduction. This was a particularly though provoking story and while I'm not sure if it was intended, Ballingrud seemed to suggest a wrongness in the grotesquely one-way relationship humans expect from the divine. There is a gluttonous aspect to the catharsis the characters ultimately experience that leaves the conclusion rather, well, uncatharitic. Because of this I can't help but believe this was intentional. On the surface, The Monsters of Heaven was a bit of enigma but the more I reflected on it, the more I enjoyed it.

Sunbleached - Nathan Ballingrud

To be published in Teeth, a YA Vampire anthology, edited by Ellen Datlow and due out in 2011.

My favorie story from Ballingrud so far, the vampire in Sunbleached is what they should be. With Twilight and True Blood turning vampires into seductive sex maniacs who are more likely to love you that exsanguinate you, the vampire is rapidly becoming defanged. Ballingrud takes a step back in the right direction, crafting his vampire as a dangerous creature that wants to do nothing more than kill you and everything you love. He is still seductive and manipulative but he wants to eat you, not grow old with you. The vampire under the floor boards soon become a confidante to the two children living above him, providing a commentary on the trust issues that often arise from paternal abandonment. But as you might suspect, a bloodthirsty demonspawn is ultimately a poor choice for a father figure. Ballingrud's proclivity for broken families is hit-and-miss with me but Sunbleached is an excellent story on multiple layers, suggesting good things for Datlow's Teeth due out sometime next year. [Although it's suprising that for a book called Teeth, none are visible]

That's it for this week. Any other good short stories out there?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...