Short Stories by Ada Hoffman

illustration by Kun Bertopeng

illustration by Kun Bertopeng

Title: Feasting Alone

Published: April 2013 in AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review

Genre: science fiction

Length: 3 pages

Setting: Inside a computer-generated world, in the future

Interest: It was included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology

Summary: “Martin uploaded his soul to the servers late” is the first sentence of the story, and it sets up the conflict in the story beautifully. Everyone has moved on to non-human representations of life and art, and find Martin fleshy and disgusting. They can’t understand why he doesn’t want to be like them. They are completely grossed out when Martin starts eating (virtual food, or course), except for the narrator, who is pulled to join Martin.

Final thoughts: I love how a single sentence sets up the whole story – setting and conflict. The story starts out with the narrator lauding the awesomeness of the post-humans in the story, but by the end, she’s joining Martin in eating some food. She also realizes that close ties to other people are important.

Title comes from: Martin is left eating by himself in the story because all the other “people” are disgusted by the biological messiness of eating, and other body-based activities.

Title: Blue Fever

Published: 2013 in This Is How You Die: Stories of the Inscrutable, Infallible, Inescapable Machine of Death. You can read the story here.

Genre: fantasy

Length: 10 pages

Setting: In a steampunk world where there is a machine that can predict the cause of your death, but only in the most generic terms.

Interest: It was included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology

Summary: Athba is a court musician, hired by Lord Keloth to sing his death songs. Lord Keloth knows he will die because of glass, and Athba has to come up with new ways he can die because of glass. Lord Keloth charges Athba to compose a death song for Lady Irathi on the topic of Blue Death. Athba is distraught because she knows Lady Irathi has kept her death secret. She’s also stymied by the difficulty of coming up with a good song about Blue Fever.

Final thoughts: What an interesting concept – you know what will kill you, but not when and not how. Would that make it easier or harder to deal with? Would you want to know? Would you want to know if everyone else knew? Apparently, the whole book is about this Machine of Death that predicts your cause of death. I really liked the narrator as well – it provided a different look at court. Poor Athba had to keep coming up with songs about death by glass. I would think she’d eventually run out of inspiration. I was also impressed with her plausible method to give Lady Irathi a common, communicable disease.

Title: And All the Fathomless Crowd

Published: 2013 in the anthology Dead North: Canadian Zombie Fiction.

Genre: post-apocalyptic fiction

Length: 14 pages

Setting: Queen’s University, April 21, 2031

Interest: It was included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology

Summary: It is Sandra’s final exam in the Department of Survival, which includes both a written component and a practical component. That means she has to move around the city to locations provided on her exam and answer questions at each goal. She runs into many Non-Minds along her route, most significantly a zombie that looks like her mother. The zombie/mother helps her make it past several groups of Non-Minds, ultimately sacrificing itself for Sandra. The exam questions reflect the presence of her assistance.

Final thoughts: Sandra refers several times to the events of 12/12 (in the style of 9/11 is my guess) but never says what exactly happened. She only mentions that now, everything is alive but not necessarily sentient. Humanity has had to learn a whole new set of rules about how to deal with the world. One of those rules is you can’t kill a Non-Mind until it becomes aggressive, or you’re said to have Romero Disease (nice touch there). By the end of the test, Sandra realizes that the Non-Minds are closer to humanity than she had thought.

Overall, I really enjoyed Hoffman’s stories. They all provided a nonstandard perspective (the last one was from a non-white narrator) to a story and each one made me think at the end, without being preachy.

Title comes from: All the Non-Minds that surround humanity after the unnamed apocalypse.

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