Short Stories by John P. Murphy

At the Old Folks Home at the End of the World

Artwork by Wayne Miller

Artwork by Wayne Miller

Published: November/December 2013 in Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show

Genre: fantasy

Length: 4 pages

Setting: an old folks’ home at the end of the universe, at the end of time

Interest: It was included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology

Summary: A collection of immortal supervillians all live together in an old folks’ home, reminiscing about the good old days and keeping the house running.

Final thoughts: A fun, quick read. I love the names of the residents (Percimandias the Timeless and Enyo the Undying, for example), and how everyone has their own little quirks, but you learn to live with them. Everyone does their part to keep the house running, because it seems they are the only people left in the universe. There’s no explanation of why they are the last, just a series of vignettes of their lives. Don’t forget, “there are a lot of tomorrows at the end of the world.”

Title comes from: The starting phrase for each vignette.

Tumbleweeds and Indelicate Questions

Published: February 2013 in Nature (follow the link to read it online for free)

Genre: science fiction

Length: 4 pages

Setting: Silver City, some extrasolar planet, sometime in the future

Interest: It was included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology

Summary: A couple of bar patrons get the bartender to tell the story of where the alien head sitting behind the bar came from.

Final thoughts: Again, a fun, quick read. It reminded me of a tall-tale, Western with aliens thrown in for variety. And of course, there’s a nice little twist at the end to make it all worth-while. With a story this short, you need to get your setting in quickly and still get that twist. Murphy managed it in this story.

Title comes from: Tumbleweeds were the name given to the natives who easily lost their heads (and the type of alien head on the bar). The indelicate question was how the head got there.

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