Short Stories by Grace Tang

These stories were included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology.

Ghost in the Machine

Published: February 2012 in Nature

Genre: science fiction

Length: flash length (my Kindle has stopped changing page numbers on this file. I don’t think it can handle more than 2495 pages.)

Setting: near future, some random city

Summary: Our narrator is a computer simulation of a dead man. He still “lives” with and interacts with his wife, Katie, but he’s confused about some gaps in his playback. When Katie comes home with the doctor who set up our narrator in his computer, we learn where the gaps are coming from.

Final thoughts: For as short as this story was, Tang managed to do a slow reveal throughout the story. You don’t realize right off that the narrator is a computer, but the setting and Kate’s responses slowly give that fact away. We can tell Kate is feeling guilty or uncomfortable about something, and the end shows us the source of that uncomfort. The end of the story is chilling, referencing the start of the story.

Title comes from: Our narrator is literally the ghost of himself in a machine

White Lies

Published: July 2012 in Nature

Genre: science fiction

Length: flash length

Setting: a generic university, near future

Summary: Lisa is a researcher that as a graduate student, learned how to impart memories into animal subjects. However, getting permission for human research was problematic. She did it anyways, with the help of a fellow grad student. Unfortunately, the subjects eventually realize the memories aren’t real and lose access to all of them, which is currently happening with subject number three.

Final thoughts: Again, Tang is playing with memory and our perception of them. This time the twist is even more malicious. Lisa is doing unsanctioned research on unknowing subjects (since once they know they are a subject, the research no longer works). As a scientist, it’s a bit chilling to see that kind of drive to do what they wanted, regardless of what others say is right.

Title comes from: I’m sure Lisa felt that her research was a series of white lies – they weren’t there to hurt anyone, just help them. I’m not so sure the research subjects would agree.

 

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