Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Short Fiction Wednesday

Last week I mentioned how often the stories I pick, more or less randomly, often turn out to have some kind of thematic connection... well, not this week!

This week we've got stories from familiar venues Futurismic and Flurb. Although I try and find new places, and I'm keen to highlight interesting and obscure venues publishing good quality SF and fantasy, there are places I keep coming back to. These two - along with Strange Horizons – have had a few of entries here before, partly because of quality, and partly because of how regularly they update. Regular updates, great content - not hard to figure out that successful recipe, I guess.

Of course, if you know of somewhere interesting then drop me a line via the comments and I'll check it out. Publishers and writers, don't be afraid to pimp your own gear – that's what makes the world go round!

So, first up is Miguel and the Viatura by Eric Gregory from Futurismic. This is a solid piece with a great line in extrapolating from a few key concepts. The idea of the viatura is similar to riding in last week's Lavie Tidhar story, The Night Train, but it's given a distinctly more ghoulish twist here. The obvious underlying theme is the exploitation of the third world by the first, and the lengths that the poor will go to help give their kids a leg up out of poverty.

Of course, life is never that simple and there are plenty of shades of grey here beyond a simple north-bad/south-good moral message. Gregory makes particularly good use of family relationships and the bonds of community expressed through gang and style-tribe loyalty to explore the different forces that push and pull in various moral directions.

This week's second story is one of those that comes out of the blue, and really blew me away. It's not a big story, or a huge message, or even that novel, but it's often the small and focused things that appeal to me most. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by the high standard at Flurb, but it gives off such a casual and easy going vibe that the discipline and razor sharp professionalism of the stories always catches me unawares! A lot of short fiction sites have fancy design and slick sci fi graphics, but the Rudy Rucker is happy to follow his own lo-fi aesthetic and let the stories speak for themselves.

Clod, Pebble by Kathe Koja and Carter Scholz is a really brilliant example of the classic short story form. It's got the really tight focus that all great short stories have. It has the penetrating gaze of the modernist masters, Katherine Mansfield or Anton Chekhov, zeroing in on a single incident with a tiny cast that opens up a whole raft human feelings and interactions.

It concretizes contrasting views of love described by William Blake in his Poem The Clod and the Pebble:

"Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a heaven in hell's despair."

So sung a little Clod of Clay,
Trodden with the cattle's feet,
But a Pebble of the brook
Warbled out these metres meet:

"Love seeketh only Self to please,
To bind another to its delight,
Joys in another's loss of ease,
And builds a hell in heaven's despite."
Blake's poem is nicely weaved into the incident of the story to lead the reader to it without bashing them over the head with it. All the events of the story point towards one or other view of love – Davies desire to present a gift to his daughter, his conflicts with his ex-wife, and the contrasting receptions of the two authors at the signing. These are  classic enduring themes beautifully articulated with breathtaking efficiency and lack of sentiment.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.