Short Stories by Oliver Buckram

Interest: The three following stories were included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology

The Running of the Robots

Published: July 2012 in Flash Fiction Online

Genre: science fiction

Length: ~4 pages

Setting: Dallas, some time in the future

Summary: A battalion of U.S. military robots is on an infinite loop around the Earth on the 32nd parallel because of a programming error. We’re in the house of the man who sent the message. He’s always found the robot passage annoying, but a young man takes refuge in his house during this year’s running and convinces him that he’s not all bad.

Final thoughts: The premise was interesting, but I don’t understand why they couldn’t just reprogram the robots. Wouldn’t they have a kill switch or a fail safe of some kind on indestructible robots? Seems kind of logical to me. The narrator’s mental about-face was a bit abrupt as well.

Un Opera Nello Spazio (A Space Opera)

Published: September/October 2013 in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction

Genre: space opera (literally!)

Length: ~4 pages

Setting: a space ship, some time in the future

Summary: The story follows all the main plot points of an Italian opera. Orlando, an orangutan, feels unrequited love for Flora. Oh no – Flora has sabotaged the ship so it’s captured by aliens! But now she’s going to be eaten, but Orlando saves her! The ship was sabotaged to find the aliens’ home world. All are saved in the end, and Orlando gets the girl.

Final thoughts: I totally read this story with very dramatic Italian opera running through my head (that’s why there are exclamation points in the summary). It helped that the author regularly added the titles of the songs into the stories (which sound much nicer in Italian than in English, which was probably the point). While you can’t read this story online, you can read or listen to another musically themed story of his at Escape Pod – A Struggle Between Rivals Ends Surprisingly.

Half a Conversation, Overheard While Inside an Enormous Sentient Slug

Published: July/August in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

Genre: science fiction

Length: ~4 pages

Setting: an extrasolar planet in the future

Summary: A sentient slug, as the servant in a household, is providing his recollection of the events leading up to a murder.

Final thoughts: I’ve never read a story where the title is a key plot point. The wife (and killer) is hiding in the slug while he’s talking to the inspector. They manage to get away with the deception because the inspector is completely disgusted by the slug’s internal powers (cleaning, healing, fixing – it’s amazing what his internal organs can do).

Overall, I found the stories always had a happy ending and were a nice bit of amusement.

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