Saturday, February 28, 2009

Haruki Murakami, "A Window"

from The Elephant Vanishes, 1993.

"Your overall score on this newest letter is 70."

The narrator is a Pen Master, one who responds to those who write him letters and critiques them. He's a young man and becomes interested in a woman who wrote him letters. Murakami takes this concept and weaves the nature of fate and randomness in our lives to enthralling heights. Another home run. Recommended.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Benjamin Rosenbaum, "Orphans"

from The Ant King and Other Stories, 2008.

An elephant talks and wears clothing.

Do elephants think this way? Would we treat them this way if they could talk? Is Rosenbaum experimenting more with form rather than substance? Yeah. Didn't really care for this one.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Haruki Murakami, "The Second Bakery Attack"

Man and wife are starving and rectify the situation at an all-night McDonald's.

I think this guy married a crazy woman. However, the logic is impeccable. They must do this thing in the McDonald's. But seriously, stock the fridge people. Once again, Murakami comes through with some oddness.

Here ya go.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Haruki Murakami, "On seeing the 100% perfect girl one beautiful April morning"

A what-if fable from Murakami

Poignant, melancholy, beautiful. Murkami works his magic again. Is your perfect mate out there? Will you meet him or her and will you test fate? What happens if you do? A magical story indeed.

Please read it online. One place to find it is here.

K. Bird Lincoln, "Sometimes We Arrive Home"

Dimension travellers arrive somewhere.

Atmospheric. Wasn't much heft to it, didn't really care for this one. At least it's short. If it had gone on a bit longer I may have liked it better.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

David Leavitt, "Dinners at Six"

Son and father have a scheduled dinner.

Pretty much just a man and his father talking during dinner. Well presented but not too compelling. I wanted to know what they ate. Is that odd?


Monday, February 23, 2009

Ted Kosmatka, "The Prophet of Flores"

Archaeology meets zealotry.

Very good, deeply researched piece of fiction by Kosmatka. A lot of stuff about the origins of humanity and religion. The characterization is fantastic. I really like the Kosmatka stories I've read thus far. Will try to find more by this talented author.

Read here.

George Saunders, "Al Roosten"

Inside the mind of a strange man.

I liked this one. Saunders likes writing fiction that sticks it to conservatives and George Bush, but this one is a character piece. Told in third person but feels more intimate than that. It's a fascinating slice of life of a man who rationalizes everything. We see that he may be a bit of a jerk, but in his mind...whole different story. Recommended.

Read here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Courtney Eldridge, "Sharks"

A fear of sharks is discussed over the phone.

I liked this story. Inevitably, it's about the fears we endure and our rationalizations for said fears. I dislike the postmodern absence of quotation marks. Speaks of laziness to me. But, yeah, I'm more aware of the deadly shark now, thanks Courtney!

Read it here.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ted Kosmatka, "Deadnauts"

Fun with space!

I think the bottom line with this story is the author questioning when the soul leaves the body. I have definite views on that so the process of questioning it didn't move me. However, he captures the solitary nature of scientists in deep space on a research ship. Good stuff.

Read it here.

Kenneth Brady, "My Cows"

A family drive counting cows turns deadly.

Kinda creepy, this one. Ultimately, though, it didn't do much for me.


Kenneth Brady, "Emergency Claus"

Santa as Rambo.

Ever wondered what would happen if Santa Claus were working with the U.S. military? Wonder no more. Turns out he'd be kind of a jerk.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Kenneth Brady, "I See What You're Saying"

Take the title literally.

This is a duuurty story. I mean, the science if applied would probably have the consequences envisioned here, but....dirty.

Read through splayed fingers here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Kij Johnson, "26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss"

A circus, a girl, and the monkeys that disappear.

"No one knows how the monkeys vanish or where they go. Sometimes they return holding foreign coins or durian fruit, or wearing pointed Moroccan slippers. Every so often one returns pregnant or accompanied by a new monkey. The number of monkeys is not constant."

This is a Short Story nominee for the 2008 Nebula Award. I thought it was very creative. Kij is a technical writer, and, like Bentley Little and probably others, uses some of that profession in her writing. There are lists, there are bullet points. I like how she teased out the mystery. It was a thoughtful examination of the unknown. Recommended.

Read it here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Haruki Murakami, "Ice Man"

A woman falls in love with a man made of ice.

I dig Murakami. Writes some strange stuff, literary fantasy set in today's world. I am certain the ice man is a metaphor for something. If I were in University I would have to figure it out. I'm not so I won't. Just go with the flow baby, let Murakami tell you a story.

Read it here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Frederick Busch, "Frost Line"

A woman attends the funeral of the man who told her not to marry his son.

"I thought again of his father’s insistence on the splinter of ice in the heart."

The woman in this story seems conflicted. But her morals aren't held in very high esteem so you can understand the ending. That splinter of ice in the heart describes these people, ugh. Overall, the descriptive powers of Busch make the story worth reading. However, I didn't care much for any of the characters, except maybe the cab driver. He seemed cool, lol.

May be read here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Kate Chopin, "Regret"

An old woman from olden times experiences regret.

On a classic short story bent here of late. Kate Chopin wrote some pretty strong fiction at the end of the 19th century. "Regret" is a good one. Just when you think maybe you can fool yourself that going through life put you where you want to be, you get a taste of what could have been and, bingo bango, regret. I dug it.

Read it here.

John Cheever, "The Swimmer"

A man starts swimming across his neighbor's swimming pools.

This is one my all-time favorite stories. It's awesome on so many levels. Cheever is that guy who writes middle to upper class white person fiction and that can be one-note. But this story is fascinating from concept to the heartbreaking end. The idea of swimming across the neighborhood via their pools is fascinating to me. We read this in one of my college lit classes and I was blown away by it. Reread solidifies it as a classic in my mind. Very highly recommended.

Please read it here.

Norman Partridge, "Apotropaics"

A kid returns home and his buddies are freaking out, for good reason.

Quite an effective horror story here. Apotropaic is an adjective for something that wards off evil. I did not know that. I'm sure I will forget it. Partridge writes some creepy stuff and this is no exception. I liked the ending. This kid will go places.

Read it here.

Joe R. Lansdale, "Surveillance"


"The only place he had found any privacy was under the covers. He could pick his nose there."

I LOVED this story. Come to the rooftops with me and urge people to read this one. What would happen if cameras were EVERYWHERE, even your bathroom, monitored by those who think they have your best intersts at heart? I'm not a paranoid freak, but I have seen throughout my life the trend towards State Monitoring. Have you noticed the cameras at busy intersections? Congresshumans wanting to legislate our fat intake? Cops pulling you over because you aren't wearing a seatbelt, and, here in California, you cannot cell phone and drive!! How is that different from talking to a passenger in your car?!?!?

Lansdale hit a nerve with this one. Why NOT observe the citizenry with the "objective" of "helping" them live better lives? The protagonist is in the future, however it isn't a very FAR future, trust me. It's short. Read it!


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Charles Stross, "Trunk and Disorderly"

Something happens involving a dwarf mammoth in the far future.

Um. Huh? Stross is usually good but sometimes he's too clever by half. Whatever that means. Always wanted to write that phrase. Probably doesn't apply though. I was lost regarding this story. His far future civilizations are fully realized but this one didn't grab me.

Listen to it here.

Geoff Ryman, "The Film-makers of Mars"

Real-looking movies from 1911 show up."

This was a lot of fun. Very well told and for a film buff like me, hits the cinema spot. Not a big fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs but that didn't matter. Highly recommended.

Read it here.

James Patrick Kelly, "Don't Stop"

Lisa is screwed up. She also sees dead people.

Kind of an inspirational tale, this one. Lisa needs to figure out why she sees dead people. I think she figures it out, but I wasn't all that interested to find out. Read it and tell me what you think.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Warner Law, "The Alarming Letters from Scottsdale"

from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, December, 2008.

Letters from a hermit-like author get weird.

This epistolary story was very good. I'm a dog lover so it had me pretty early. You kinda know where it's going but it's short and a lot of fun getting there.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Wayne Wightman, "A Foreign Country"

from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, December, 2008.

Third Party Presidential candidate wins and does strange things.

Here we have a light piece of SF about another kind of alien takeover. Kinda quiet and unassuming. Pleasant work but nothing to seek out.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Stephen Baxter, "Last Contact"

The world and everything you know ends.

Now THIS should have won Best Short Story Hugo. It is by far the best story of the five as well as being one of the best I've read. What SF should be. Great science, touching relationship and dynamite ending. What would you do if you knew the exact date the universe would end? Take it from there, Stephen!

Read it here.

Franz Kafka, "The Hunger Artist"`

Title pretty much says it all.

Kafka is kool. I love The Metamorphosis. The guy could write. Here we have a man who goes around displaying his fasting ability for people everywhere. It's a fascinating story because the allegorical nature of it lends itself to many interpretations. I, personally, saw a Christ figure for whom people have less and less respect and, when he's gone, are happy to move on to bigger, better things. Highly recommended.

Read it here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dean Whitlock, "Changeling"

from The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy, January, 2009.

A man gets involved with a strange female waitress.

Pretty good at setting the scene, Whitlock creates a small town feel with a river and foreboding island. Why this kid is so eager to follow this woman around is beyond me. And just when a mystery could be solved, guess what... it ends. Okay to pass the time with, but nothing special.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Martha Wilson, "A Short Story About Nova Scotia"

This is not really a story about Nova Scotia.

"Before I finish writing this short story, I should try to convince the reader that it was worth reading. Given that this story is art and not therapy because it has found its public, is it good or bad art?"

Do you enjoy meta-fiction? I do. Meta-fiction calls attention to itself. It can be frustrating to non-English majors but English majors like myself have more exposure to it, so it's perhaps more acceptable. Meta-fiction occurred as early as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and can be seen in great effect by John Barth and Kurt Vonnegut today.

The story by Wilson doesn't have much to do with Nova Scotia. But it is pretty funny and insightful.

Read it here.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Mike Resnick, "Distant Replay"

A man meets the spitting image of his dead wife.

I don't get it. Another nominee for best Hugo, short story division, 2008. It was dumb. So what? You see the ending coming a mile away, stilted dialogue. Blah. THIS is one of the five best of the year? Criminy.

Read it here.

Robert Reed, "A Woman's Best Friend"

Love across dimensions!

Robert Reed is another short story master I enjoy. He has a way of writing accessible stories that are usually fresh takes on old ideas. This story concerns a man who gets to meet another dimension's version of his wife. I enjoyed this one quite a bit.

Read it here.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Terry Bisson, "Catch ’Em in the Act"

A man orders an out of this world camera. Wackness ensues.

Terry Bisson writes fun science fiction and fantasy. I have enjoyed his stuff quite a bit. The collection "Bears Discover Fire" is a very good book. This story left me flat, however. Just didn't feel any compassion for the main character. And the motives behind others escaped me. Nice try Terry.

Read it here.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Patricia Ferrara, "Rising Waters"

from The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy, January, 2009.

A boy. A lake. A submerged house.

It's supposed to be scary. It confused me. Couldn't wrap my head around the submerged house thing and why the boy can't swim away. Long paragraphs of narration with little dialogue didn't help me. I likes my dialogue.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Carol Emshwiller, "The Perfect Infestation"

from The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy, January 2009.

Aliens among us! Don't be afraid.

Another space aliens invade our world story. Yay! This one is light and wry and some would say frivolous. You may not look at your dog the same way.

Couldn't find this one online. Sorry.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Steven Millhauser, "The Invasion from Outer Space"

An invasion from outer space hits a town.

"We had wanted, we had wanted—oh, who knew what we’d been looking for? We had wanted blood, crushed bones, howls of agony."

I love Steven Millhauser. He's one of my all-time favorites. He crafts prose so elegantly it puts me in the scene. I cannot recommend him highly enough.

Imagine my surprise over finding a story in the New Yorker, and it's science fiction! Elegant and short, we are treated to a benign (?) invasion from space. I, personally, would not want to live in this town in the aftermath. There's something creepy in the ending. I leave it to you to discover this major talent.

Read it here.