The meat of the story takes place in dialogue around the lunch table. They discuss what the Holy Grail might be, a carpenter's chalice, Excalibur, the Ring of Nibelungs, Lapis Ex Coelis (the stone from Heaven), meteorite, UFO power plant, the Cauldron of Plenty, etc. Their banter is well executed and fun to read.
By the end of the story and their lavish lunch, they begin to suspect that something very magical is happening. It could be all the alcohol they consumed, but it could be that they found what they were questing for after all. It is up to you to decide.
Cambias, James L. "Parsifal (Prix Fire)." The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Vol. 110 No. 2. Feb. 2006. p. 128 - 135
It is hard for me to resit a story that uses a classic literature author as its model. Q&A is broken into several short sections that each begin with the title of a Virginia Woolf novel: The Voyage Out, To The Light House, Orlando(s), and Mrs. Dalloway. Each of these sections moves the plot of the story effortlessly forward while playing off the Woolf novel titles.
The plot of story follows a young girl's day long adventure. Her adventure begins in a car with her mother and her mother (once father) in transition from manhood to womanhood on the way to beach. Action and drama happen. By the end of the story, she and her father/mother windup at a party in a breach home for men-in-transition-to-women.
The story gets its charm from the 1st person girl's perspective. She is accepting of her father/mother, but she doesn't really understand either. By the time the story reaches the beach house party, the author has really helped the reader to better understand the girls situation, what it must be like to live with and watch an Orlando in bloom.
This one is for any Woolf fan.
Dickinson, Stephanie. "Q & A." Water-Stone Review. Vol. 8, Fall 2005. Minneapolis: Hamline University, 2005. p. 11 - 29
Janie’s other problem is that her laptop cord is frayed and causes its power to fluctuate. She takes her laptop in to a little repair shop where she fantasies about the repair technician. He is so skilled, the deft and precise way he moves his hands as he strips and reworks the cord.
Almond’s writing is erotic and sensual. I checked with my wife, 9 to 5 Poet, to see if some of Almond’s descriptions of Janie’s fantasies were accurate of female psychology. She seemed to think so. I won’t repeat any here. You will just have to find the story and read it and decide for yourself.
This is a Date Night suggestion. Do something different with your loved one, read a short story together.
Almond, Steve. “Wired for Life.” The Evil B.B. Chow and Other Stories. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2005. p. 151 -173
Immediate opening for a dedicated actor. Successful candidates will exhibit enthusiasm for the stone age, be able to work in a confined area, live on site, and follow our strict code of conduct.
Areas of responsibility include but are not limited to: creative use of time period appropriate make-up and costumes, cooking and consuming one deer each day over an open pit, reporting on the mental state and overall effectiveness of your partner, swatting at imaginary flies, and the creation of charcoal cave paintings.
Benefits include a modest wage, trips out of the cave to the Snack Shack, room & board, and the satisfaction that comes with knowing that you helped some snotty little kid better understand what it meant to live in a cave.
Please send a creative resume and cover letter to Pastoralia along with three professional references and any other supporting documents that you wish to be considered.Saunders, George. "Pastoralia." Pastoralia. New York: Riverhead Books, 2000. p. 1 - 68
Cindy is up beat and happy in the face of a devastating condition. She dances with her IV pole and brings only halter tops and hot pants to the hospital with her. She is a teenager would like nothing more than to be noticed by her Doctor in a romantic way and to understand how your insides can become your enemy.
Cindy's narration of her visits are vivid and real. She is a well drawn character with a big voice that tells it like it is while pleading with her body to let her live a normal life. This is a powerful story about what it means to be young, sick, and forgotten.
Find it! Read it!
Adrian, Chris. "A Child's Book of Sickness and Death." McSweeney's At War For The Foreseeable Future And He's Never Been So Scared (Quarterly Concern Issue 14). San Francisco: McSweeney's Publishing, 2004. p. 15 - 34
MacLeod gives us a glimpse into the future of evangelism. Rev. Donald MacIntyre number had come up. He did not fight it. Instead he knew that he had been called by God to serve as Chaplin on the EU Military Outpost that served as the point of first contact with non-human life. This was Rev. MacIntyre’s opportunity to bring the good news to and entirely different species.
Rev. MacIntyre has set his eyes on the mycoids, intelligent fungus. Scientists work round the clock trying to communicate with using encoded amino acids filled capsules. These scientists have had very little success getting more than basic semi-intelligible responses. The Rev. has encoded his own capsule. However, there are those that would stop him from tainting this first contact with religious bias.
The writing in “A Case of Consilience” is wonderfully detailed and the dialogue strong and believable. MacLeod is another example of a science fiction author that can take us into bizarre unknown and still make a reader feel completely grounded and at home. This is a talent that I hope I can one day fully emulate. MacLeod accomplishes this reality based grounding through familiar scenes in bars, office politics, and through Rev. MacIntrye’s struggle to fulfill what he believes to be his highest calling.
MacLeod, Ken. “A Case of Consilience.” Year’s Best SF 11. Ed. David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer. New York: EOS, 2006. p. 59-72
However, this has very little to do with farming and hulling grain and much more to do with highly evolved rats. Rats that have become primitive tool users that hunt Mason’s cats. A Tom & Jerry escalation ensues. Mason buys better traps. The rats create better tools to beat the supper traps. Until…
I won’t give it way. Asher has a point to make with this story. I will just say that the last sentence turns a great story into a heavy handed anecdote punch. However, it is a very funny and entertaining one. I will protect my cats if I can.
Asher, Neal. “Mason’s Rats.” Year’s Best SF 11. Ed. David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer. New York: EOS, 2006. p. 78-84
With The Last Feast of Harlequin, Ligotti respectfully stays within the boundaries of the Lovecraftian short story tradition. He uses the investigative first person witness point of view to good effect. I don’t think that we are ever given a name, but we are told that he an anthropologist who is obsessed with the historical portrayal of the clowns. This obsession leads him to the town of Mirocaw where they celebrate annually a Fools Feast.
When he arrives in Mirocaw, he is very excited to participate in what he thinks will be jovial tomfoolery. He has brought his makeup and high hopes for the Yule time celebration. However, the festival is not what he expected. The deeper he involves himself in the festivities the more he begins to question his own sanity.
This is a must read for any Mythos fan.
Ligotti, Thomas. “The Last Feast of Harlequin.” The Shadow at the Bottom of the World. New York: Cold Spring Press, 2005. p. 17 - 52
For years the husband has happily gone no his rounds collecting garbage. He and his partner have even made a little game out of it. They watch the garbage. Is it a rich persons or a person going though hard times. However, today it was announced that the garbage collectors, in case of atomic bomb attacks on the city, will be responsible collecting and disposing of bodies. And now, this long time sanitation work is questioning his ability to go into work tomorrow.
This story is Bradbury's response to a real ordnance that he came across. I really love that. I like the idea that fiction can be a direct response to news and the craziness around us. Most of my fiction begins with a quote from a newspaper or magazine. It might be a dream, but I firmly believe that fiction can be both art and commentary in an overt way.
Bradbury, Ray. "The Garbage Collector." Bradbury Stories. New York: Morrow, 2003. p. 243 - 248
Candidates from all over the world have gathered to go through the grueling year long application process to be one of the chosen few selected to crew the first shift of Martian project. It is Michael’s job to select the right combination of personality types to increase the mission’s productivity and decrease the potential for infighting.
To this layperson, the psychology is soundly researched and expertly conveyed. The story is Michael’s first person account of this stay with the candidates in the Antarctic training facility and through Michael’s notes and individual case files. It soon becomes clear that Michael is a connoisseur of women, not physically (although he’d like to be). He’d rather watch and collect female behavior: the way they use their sex, their femininity, to manipulate and control.
Except for an ending that falls flat, this is one of the stories that help me to realize just how emotionally powerfully a short story can be.
Robinson, Kim Stanley. “Michael in Antarctica.” The Martians. New York: Bantam, 1982. p. 1 - 33
Ran Rarak, the captain of small but fast cruiser in the great navy of the Federation of Stars, has been recalled from the depth of space by Hurus Hol, head of the Bureau of Astrological Knowledge. Together they will lead a fleet of 50 ships filled with the brightest minds to learn all they can about the approaching star and if an apocalypse may be diverted.
Hamilton’s writing is fast paced. Each page is filled from top to bottom with slickly styled plot that catches his characters up in a vortex of action. In this case, will Ran Rarak and Hurus Hol be able to save the trillions of lives supported by the sun? Or will this mysterious dark star rip the sun from the solar system as it continues on its path through the great abyss?
Hamilton, Edmond. “The Star Stealers.” The Space Opera Renaissance. Ed. David G. Heartwell & Kathryn Cramer. New York: Tor, 2006
To get to the heart of the story, it is about love, addiction, redemption, and the power of the human soul. The strength of this story rests in Rajaniemi’s ability to portray a strange and dark world of out of control technology in between grounded and completely understandable human drama.
Jukka, a recovering god, received a message from his once lover turned angel-fighter pilot, to meet her at parents home during her needed R&R. Jukka does not get along with her parents. Her parents don’t approve of her involvement in the war effort. But, if I go on, I will spoil the story.
Rajaniemi, Hannu. “Deus Ex Homine.” Year’s Best SF 11. Ed. David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer. New York: EOS, 2006. p. 5-21