I was troubled by one of the images in Nevala-Lee's story. A lot of attention was paid to a monkey wench. I didn’t get it. So, I looked it up. As it turns out, a monkey wrench references Edward Abbey’s “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” which is credited to have spurred on the more aggressive environmentalist movement.
I ran out and bought a copy of Abbey’s book today.
“The Last Resort” is the ever present struggle between the economic opportunity to profit by exploiting natural resources and the ecological mandate for the preservation and protection of our environmental inheritance. Helki is an expert in field of Herpetology, a branch of Zoology focusing on amphibians and reptiles. She has been called in by a friend to help assess the ecological impact of a new Ski Resort on the local population of Garter snakes, a breading ground lays within the influence of the resort’s plans.
Helki is a mother, a wife, and a snake expert. She feels like a sell out after a brief encounter with three activist-hikers. The hikers were waiting for her. They knew that she would arrive and begin her assessment of the area that day. After their brief conversation, it is apparent that the hikers belong to an activist that is not afraid of action, something that Helki envies about them. However, she says, “It’s a class privilege [ ] It’s easy to care about the planet when you’ve never had to worry about anything else” (56). They go on their separate ways. Helki has a job to do, a job that almost gets her killed.
It would seem that the activist-hikers were of the radical variety, willing to make sacrifices for a greater good. What are a few snakes, a rare breading ground, and human lives when you are fighting for mother earth? An explosion at the developments cooling station sets off a chain reaction that no one could have predicted. Well, almost no one, a report submitted to the parent company of the resort was ignored. A report that alluded to the environmental impact of pumping water under up the ski slopes to remove surface heat in order to keep the slopes cool enough so that the snow wouldn’t melt.
With all natural systems, when one element of the system is removed or significantly altered, ripples can some times become unstoppable catastrophes. To find out what happens and if anyone survives, you will need to pick up a copy of the September issue of Analog.
The sadness of Nevala-Lee’s story is that in this case, the work was done, an environmental assessment was conducted. One of the leading causes of environmental problems is humans trying to manage nature without fully understating it. This time the impact was known, but it was ignored, furthering the struggle between a society that values short-term profit over sustainability.
Truly, “The Last Resort” is a must read.
Nevala-Lee, Alec. “The Last Resort.” Analog . September 2009, Vol. CXXIX, No. 9. P. 54 - 71
Anyway, if you haven’t seen anything from me lately, it is because I have been fighting with Internet browsers to correctly resolve The Soulless Machine Review on my computer. The comforting thing is that when I try it anywhere else, it works just fine…but that just adds fuel to my fire at home. Blah …
“Icarus Saved from the Skies” is a story that has been translated into English by Edward Gauvin from the original French. The story brought to mind a non-hero version of Marvel’s Warren Worthington III, the feathered playboy with an obsessive grudge against Apocalypse for turning him in the monster Archangel. However, Chateaureynaud’s story isn’t about a Marvel Mutant, but a poor sap who sprouts worthlessly weak feathered wings.
Chateaureynaud writes from the under-winged angle’s perspective, which has the definite feel of an abridged memoir or diary. The accounting of events begins in his twenties as small lumpy stubs begin to protrude from his shoulder blades. The story jumps forward through his life as he dates, finds love, marries, and falls out of love. All the while, his wings grow and fill out, but they are too small to carry him into the sky as Icarus’ had lifted him from his prison toward the sun, but too large to effectively hide under clothing or large coats. He is a prisoner in his own home. His wife, not so much loving, is a dedicated observer and fanatic believer that one day he will fly and carry her superman-style.
“Icarus Saved from the Skies” is a train wreck of emotions that sends the winged-narrator over the side of a cliff. Don’t miss it. I recommend this story to anyone who likes Marvel Mutants, but is sick to death of their wars and fighting and would rather read a story about an individuals struggle to find peace with himself.
Chateaureynaud, George-Oliver. “Icarus Saved from the Skies.” Fantasy & Science Fiction. August / September 2009, Vol. 117, No. 1 & 2. p. 140 - 145
“You are Such a One” is a pleasant surprise in a world full of first person and third person narrators. As the title suggests Springer’s story is told in the second person, meaning that the narrator pronoun is ‘you’ instead of ‘I’ or ‘s/he.’ Second person is a dangerous writer’s toy, an experimental point of view that is rarely used, simply because it is so different that readers will focus on the point of view and not the story (just as I am doing here), but where many second person stories fail this one succeeds.
The reason that Springer’s story succeeds is that the point of view, even though it is second person, is unobtrusive and does not distract from the story. Instead, the point of view gives the reader an added level of ghostly horror. The main character is experiencing, reliving a very traumatic experience that makes the displaced narrative sense seem psychologically appropriate; she is literally standing next to herself in a déjà vu nightmare of domestic horror.
The main character is a woman out of one of those classic tales that feminists will explore about the 50s and 60s male-female domestic home dynamics. He goes to work. She stays at home. He pays the bills. She does the housework. Except that, she has a job at the local bank as a teller. She is modest and soft-spoken, and doesn’t feel the need to speak up about men who have been promoted while she has not. She glides through her life taking the paths of least resistance, even when it mean letting six people cut in front of her at the grocery store.
Then one day, while driving down the highway in
She is rightfully disturbed to discover that she is a ghost and has to find the underlying cause of her personal mystery right away. However, what she discovers is horrifyingly sad.
Whatever your reason for reading this story, read it because it is good fiction. However, it is nice to happen upon a well-written ghost story about a menopausal woman in the second person point of view.
I love to play Texas hold’em. It is a game that is 1/3 part numbers and odds, 1/3 part empathic reading of non-verbal tics (or “the tell”), and 1/3 part luck. Just like the group of guys in Hughes’ story “Hunchster,” I believe that playing poker with five or more is best. Groups allow you fly under the radar, bluff a few, and pass more often without hindering the pace of the game. To that end, the guys have included the oddball who lives downstairs, renting the spare room.
The oddball living in Lee’s basement “…liked us to call him ‘the Hunchster’” (87). He had a fourth strategy for winning hands that rarely failed him. He played hunches. He would look at his cards, but the guys could never catch him even peaking at the flop or at them. He would keep his eyes to himself and speak only to answer direct questions, bet, pass, or fold. And he’d win. He’d win their nickels, dims, and quarters.
This group of guys played for pocket change because times were tough in town. Several of the local businesses had gone under when dotcom bubble burst. Only work in town was the penitentiary. It did not pay well and there were no benefits, but it was work and they all had families to support. Families that they would do anything to keep together, perhaps even murder to protect.
“Hunchster” does not seem extra ordinary. The story is about passing bad times by playing a little poker and getting together with friends. However, the oddball living in Lee’s basement was some kind of genius. He was working on something he called “temporal recapture.”
Temporal recapture gives the guys a reason to worry. These guys aren’t stupid. They can put two and two together, and temporal recapture would spell disaster for the town and their families. Something must be done.
Hughes’ story is a good read. It combines an obvious love for poker and science fiction. I could see this story being a prequel to Philip K. Dick’s “The Minority Report,” minus the need for precognitive humans. It is a story that you will not want to miss.
By DOUGLAS QUENQUA
Published: June 7, 2009
Why do blogs have a higher failure rate than restaurants?
Mark C Newton said...
Neal Asher said...
Thanks for that!
Thanks for the mention! I was just thinking I should take this story down, it's so silly and no one had noticed it...
Several people have posted informative information. This is my most trafficked post.
And my favorite comment/letter:
Marty Halpern said....
I worked as an acquisitions editor for Golden Gryphon Press through December 2007. Over the past year or so, I ran Google Alerts for the authors and books that I edited, which included Robert Reed's short story collection The Cuckoo's Boys. When I was alerted to your review of Reed's story, "The Children's Crusade," I wanted to include it on the goldengryphon.com web site because a) it provided a very detailed review of one of the major stories in the collection; and b) it's a very fine review. So "thank you" too for your review.
Still, I'm into blogging for me, and selfishly so. I don't expect fame or fortune or anything really. I think if you believe that blogging is your quick fix and golden road to stardom, you'll be quickly swallowed in the black hole of internet anonymity.
“Morality” is part “Indecent Proposal” and part [insert any story by Chuck Palahniuk]. King portrays a typical American couple trying to make ends meet in a down economy. Chad is a substitute teacher and a memoirist working on book about the struggles of being a substitute teacher, titled “Living with the Animals.” Chad is married to Nora who was laid off from the hospital where she was a nurse. She now works in Hospice for retired pastor who is recovering from a stroke.
Chad and Nora are typical in that they have a mountain of consumer debt. They fear the ring of their phone fearing a creditor’s long reach. Even with Chad’s long-term substitute post and Nora’s steady job, they are just treading water, and the woman who Chad is subbing for could return any day now.
There is hope for an advance on Chad’s book, but his agent has told him that he would need to finish it before he could take it to auction. Chad would need at lest eight months of considered effort to finish the book, which is not going to happen while he is teaching.
Chad and Nora have dreams. Dreams that take money. Dreams that they will never achieve without some modicum of a miracle. Dreams that they have all but given up on.
Enter Winnie. Winnie is Nora’s recovering stroke patient. He sits her down and offers her a sum of money equaling more than $200,000.00. All she has to do is help him experience sin. Winnie understands sin, he is a pastor and has talked many people through rough times, but he doesn’t know what it feels like first hand, an experience that he is loath to die without. He has committed sins, who hasn’t, and he knows his, but nothing like what he is asking Nora to do. Winnie wishes to sin by proxy, double-down.
I’m not going to tell you what that sin is or how the story turns out. You are going to need to read it, but what I will say is that King is a master writer and 12 pages of fiction just fly by. When reading a story, fiction you should notice that you are reading. You should be immersed in the experience. King’s writing is perfect, nothing in the writing pulls you out from the dream, or movie-in-your-head experience. The only distraction is that you have to skip from page 67 to 110 to finish, but that is only a small bump.
I hope that having included a short story in its pages, Esquire has recommitted to publishing fiction. Only time will tell.
Go pick up a copy of the July 2009 issue!
King, Stephen. “Morality.” Esquire. July 2009, vol 152, no 1. p. 57 – 67; 110 – 111