Welcome to the third short fiction Wednesday here at Pointless Philosophical Asides! Still no sign of my package from amazon, so I think next week's will be a bit of a special edition.
Bad Ideas by Rudy Rucker from Flurb
I really like Rudy Rucker. I've read a lot of his short stories, from the cyber punk era to today, and a number of his novels, notably the 'Ware series (Software, Wetware and Freeware) and his superb Postsingular from a few years back. Despite (or perhaps because of) having a name like Scooby Doo with Tourettes, he can be relied on to deliver and if I'm stuck for something to read I'll check out his site see what he's got (Bruce Sterling is another). His short fiction site Flurb is a constant source of interesting new stories from both new writers and more familiar names, including himself. This is from issue eight (Spetember 2009), but issue nine just came out this week.
One element of Rucker's writing I always enjoy is his distincitvely humane approach to characterisation. He specialises in slackerish types somewhat bamboozled by the odd twists life takes, but smart and kind enough to roll with the punches, by and large. It's always a pleasure spending time in Rucker world, becuase there's no problem so big that it can't be mastered with a bit of thought and a big heart, and in it's own odd way Bad Ideas is no different. He seems really interested in the idea of ideas given reality, or perhaps just the potency to change the world at a physical level. "Surrealism" is a rather devalued word these days, but Rucker's work is the real deal, and here he uses dream-like imagery to a few interesting psychological connotations and a wierd take on the idea of the body snatcher invasion.
The City of Unrequited Dreams by Claude Laumiere from Chizine
ChiZine specialises in dark fantasy, and this is definitely what you get here. The search for pleasure takes on the character of the sublime against a backdrop of fashionable European decadance - casinos and fashion magazines and ambiguous sexuality - that evokes Warhol's Factory scene and the films of Fassbinder and S&M porn. It relies heavily on ornate furnishings and chic lifestyles for its atmosphere, and does a nice job of weaving the narrator's longing for his lost lover and a life of indulgence into a tale of self-destructuve, even self-loathing, obsession. There's a weirdly old fashioned quality to it, a bit like catching The Story of O on late night TV, and there's something studied and remote about this style. The world of credit cards and people in suits sitting at computers seems rather distant from the fantasy of European decadence that is the mysterious city of Venera, but in Laumier's capable hands it still packs in the emotional charge.
While being very different in tone, both these stories use a dream-like, surrealistic atmosphere. Both deal with interior states made real, for surely Verena is just as much an expression of a Bad Idea (the narrator's insatiable desire) as those expelled by Bea & Nils, and both storie are about love. Both Laumiere's narrator and Rucker's married couple refuse to give up on it, but while it destroys the former it staves off anhilation for Bea & Nils.