Tag Archives: 2014 Campbellian Anthology

Short Stories by John Zaharick

This is the last group of stories from the 2014 Campbellian Anthology. It’s only taken me three years to finish – so I’m a slow short story reader.

Dysmorphic

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

Genre: science fiction

Setting: Earth, near future

Summary: Lisa is a sensory network array controller. She feels much more comfortable controlling the robot arrays than in her own skin. She finally feels comfortable in her body after returning her consciousness from an array in the Gulf of Mexico.

Final thoughts: I feel like I’m missing something in this story. We get flashbacks of Lisa’s life and how uncomfortable she is in her skin and then suddenly, she’s fine? What was so special about that particular assignment that allowed her to slip back into her skin and be happy in it for the first time ever? I don’t know, so I end the story unsatisfied.

Title comes from: The narrator was unhappy with her body shape, and the author used the term dysmorphic to describe her state of mind.

Ghost Gardening

Published: January, 2013 in Lost and Lonely

Genre: fantasy

Setting: generic location (felt like the U.S. but not really specific), present day

Summary: Our narrator plays a game with their significant other – find the strangest book you can in a used bookstore and buy it for your partner. They’ve found the best one yet – A Guide to Ghost Gardening. Alternating with snippets from the book, we learn the partner has died and the narrator has had a hard time getting over that death.

Final thoughts: I enjoyed the contrast of the crazy gardening book (if you’re trying to make a ghost garden, you need to get the proper energies in the ground to attract ghostly elements) with the more mundane reminisces of the narrator. For a bit, the narrator seems to have found a haunted house with a ghost garden already in existence (there are salamanders everywhere), but then they move on.

One interesting point I only noticed as I started writing up the review was the gender of the narrator and their partner is never mentioned. I read it as having a female narrator, but I think that’s only because I am female. I wonder if it would feel male to a male reader?

Title comes from: The title of the strange book the narrator found and was excerpted throughout the story.

 

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Pageant for a Crazy Man by Gerald Warfield

This is the next story included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology.

Published: March, 2013 in From the Depths (view the link in full screen to read the text free online)

Genre: short fiction

Setting: Dayton, Ohio, 1980s

Summary: A young teen-age girl is camping with her family. She is awoken one morning by a commotion in the campground. Someone has tied a man to the cross they use for the Easter pageant at the campground and “crucified” him. The man ends up dead the next morning, having fallen from a cliff.

Final thoughts: This is one of those stories that you turn the page, looking for the rest of it because that can’t be it. And, it’s not the good kind of “I want more”. This was the nothing has really happened, and I’m still waiting for the purpose of the story to show itself. I didn’t see any evidence of a science fiction or fantastical bent to the story either. Oh well, you can’t like them all. This was thematically appropriate, though, with Easter so close.

Title comes from: The campground is where locals conduct an Easter pageant annually. A deaf-mute, mentally unstable man was crucified at the campground.

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Collateral Memory by Sabrina Vourvoulias

This is the next story included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology.

Published: June, 2013 in Strange Horizons (you can also listen to the story from their podcast)

Genre: magical realism

Setting: mostly Guatemala, 1980s

Summary: The narrator recounts a childhood game where the girls (and some boys) would hide in a shed and another group of boys would find them and drag them outside, fighting the whole time, where they were disappeared. The girls would win if the boys didn’t find them all, but the only time they won was when the narrator used magic to hide one of the boys. It seems the kids were re-enacting scenes from when soldiers would enter their houses and grab anyone they wanted.

Final thoughts: the story felt like it was supposed to be portentous and meaningful, but I just didn’t get it. Maybe because I grew up safe and didn’t have to worry about soldiers breaking into my house in the middle of the night and raping or killing a family member or myself. The children’s game reflected the life they were living, with some variation if you were a native Guatemalan or an American missionary or soldier’s kid. There was also a bit of magic thrown in because the narrator was able to pull darkness in around herself or others, but that was a tiny part of the story.

Title comes from: It came from the last lines of the story. “Call it a game. Call it collateral memory. Call it real.”

 

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Sparg by Brian Trent

Art by Melissa Mead

This is the next story included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology.

Published: August, 2013 in Daily Science Fiction

Genre: science fiction

Setting: Mars, near future

Summary: Sparg, which we slowly learn is a pet octopus (or something like that) on Mars, is going through the motions of creating breakfast to bring its owners back. It doesn’t like being alone, and it desperately hopes its actions will return things to the way they were. Unfortunately, we learn the family left suddenly because of an attack on Mars and isn’t likely to return any time soon.

Final thoughts: An interesting viewpoint for a basic story. You start our trying to figure out why the narrator is having such a hard time making pancakes. Through flashbacks, we slowly piece together the setting and why the creature is making breakfast. Ultimately, it’s quite a sad story – Sparg was left behind, with no knowledge of why the family left or when it will come back, but it really hopes they do come back. But the reader knows the family won’t be coming back, and Sparg is left with its OCD, trying to recreate just the right conditions to bring them back.

Title comes from: The name of the pet who was our narrator for the story.

 

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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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Short stories by Bogi Takacs

These stories were included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology.

Recordings of a More Personal Nature

Published: November 2013 in Apex Magazine

Genre: fantasy

Setting: the Temple of some other world

Summary: Access to the Archives has suddenly become difficult. This is causing problems in completing administrative and political tasks. Archivists like Idriwu, who grew up accessing the Archives and therefore have part of their personalities within the Archive, are distraught to lose the connection. Even with aides (like drugs), access is becoming more difficult. Idriwu comes up with the idea of writing down the Archives so the information is still available when access to the Archives ends.

Final thoughts: An interesting concept that the culture would never have developed writing because they have perfect oral transmission of information via the Archive and the archivists. It certainly gives members of the Temple power, but no more than would be obtained if those were the only people who could read and write. I can’t believe any one person would be able to come up with a system of writing in a short time period, even starting with some rudimentary signs.

Title comes from: The assistant to Idriwu made the argument that the archivists should be allowed to make written recordings of their lives spent in the Archive as well as matters of state and history.

Mouse Choirs of the Old Matra

Published: July 2013 in Demeter’s Spicebox

Genre: fairy tale

Setting: the island plains in a distant past

Summary: A wise wizard who lives on the island plains makes friends with a mouse one day. When he feeds the mouse, she turns into a young maiden. The maiden decides to live with the wizard and they spend many happy days together. One day, the maiden decides she wants to marry, but only the best of the best. So, the wizard climbs on his trusty steed and looks to find the best of the best.

Final thoughts: This was a sweet story that followed a very traditional arc. I wasn’t surprised at any point in the story, which made it feel like I’d read it before, or at least something very similar.

Title comes from: When the maiden married, the mouse choirs sang for days under the mountain called Old Matra.

 

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Erzulie Dantor by Tim Susman

I’m continuing to work my way through the 2014 Campbellian Anthology.

Published: November 2012 in Apex Magazine

Genre: fantastical

Length: 7 pages

Setting: Bas-Le-Fond, Haiti, just after the big earthquake that leveled much of the country

Summary: Sirene has decided to use the earthquake as an excuse to eliminate her sister, Maisie, and get her house and wealth. Sirene fakes that a je-rouge controlled by Maisie tried to take her baby. She and her husband convince the neighbors that Maisie is evil and should be hanged that night. But, when Sirene and her man move into Maisie’s house, her baby is tempted away from her by a supernatural being and the house collapses around them.

Final thoughts: Interesting since this used Haitian stories as the backbone. It’s basically a story of karma, but the underlying mythology was unknown to me, so I found it very interesting. I also found it interesting that Erzulie Dantor saved the innocent baby before the house fell around Sirene and her husband. The husband had reservations about the plan, but ultimately went through with it and paid the ultimate price.

Title comes from: Erzulie Dantor is a Haitian Vodou spirit often associated with motherhood (at least according to the Wikipedia page). She convinces Sirene her baby is in danger and Sirene should give him to her, just before the house falls on Sirene.

 

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Short Stories by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam

Monday’s short fiction is from the 2014 Campbellian Anthology, as I slowly make my way through the alphabet.

The Wanderers

Published: February 2013 in Clarkesworld

Genre: science fiction

Length: 8 pages

Setting: a future Earth

Summary: Aliens come to Earth after watching our entertainment. They know we’ll appreciate their ability to dominate and torture, based on all the movies they’ve watched. We’re doing a great job of hiding from them (as piles of ash that only one of the aliens realizes used to be people), but that just means Earth was the perfect place for them to come. They needed a challenge, after all, and their own subjects were boring and died without trying to fight back.

Final thoughts: This one was creepy. We’ve got aliens that think humanity likes torture and violence and horror, since that’s what our entertainment was all about. Of course, be careful around the cars. They must be weapons since they’re always exploding when they crash, which doesn’t match the physics of what should happen. The aliens kept making reference to classic movies that fit the situation (“…more like The Road or I Am Legend, only not like those at all because there was not even one of you left and no monsters in the shadows”). Turns out we killed all of humanity before the aliens could come and do it for us, and the aliens don’t realize it yet.

Title comes from: the aliens were the wanderers, looking for a good planet to inhabit and dominate

The Siren

Published: April 2013 in Strange Horizons; there’s also a podcast of the story

Genre: fantasy

Length: 12 pages

Setting: it felt like suburban California, present day

Summary: Mina shows up one day at Jen’s house. Her mom met her in Greece and invited her home. There’s something odd about her, starting with the bones poking through at her shoulder blades and continuing with the song she sings whenever she’s near the water. Turns out she’s a siren and, although not actively trying to harm Jen and her mother, her song drives them to nearly drowning. Jen decides to help Mina by crafting new wings for her, which sends her to a career of sculpting.

Final thoughts: While not as creepy as the previous story, this one was still quite depressing. None of the characters were particularly happy with their lives. Jen seemed to help the most – the wings she made for Mina did improve her life, and eventually her mom got over her dad’s death. I didn’t enjoy this one as much as The Wanderers.

Title comes from: Mina was a siren.

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The Scorn of the Peregrinator by John E. O. Stevens

It’s the latest story I read in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology. I’m currently 90% done! I’m sure I’ll finish next year, which means it will have only taken me three years to read all the stories.

Published: November 2012 in Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Genre: fantasy

Length: 10 pages

Setting: another world with a too hot sun and limited technology

Summary: Our narrator is a young member of a tribe who is caught unawares outside his village by a stranger, a peregrinator. The peregrinator forces the narrator to take him into the village, where he demands tribute for the Nine Kings. The villagers try to attack the peregrinator, but he uses the magic feathers of his cloak to defeat them. The narrator, meanwhile, is being scorched by the Furnace (their name for the sun). This ultimately allows the narrator to take the magic from the peregrinator and defend his village.

Final thoughts: A fascinating world where the people hide from the sun in ravines because it is so hot. There seemed to be a tie between the people and birds. I couldn’t tell if the people were bird-like or just adopted bird idioms into their speech and lifestyle because the birds provide much of the needs of their life. An interesting twist on a standard defend-your-home story.

Title comes from: The stranger who came to the town was a peregrinator, covered in feathers and dealing justice from the Nine Kings. It’s perhaps a play on peregrine falcon, since he was covered in feathers and a predator, and peregrination, which means to walk around. He thought the villagers beneath him and could care less what they wanted.

 

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Annex by Benjanun Sridaungkaew

I’m late getting this post up because things were a bit crazy around the house today. Last night, I decided to do a bit of plumbing work at 8pm. I figured it would be a quick and easy task to finish up the weekend. Ha! Instead, I made a pipe leak everywhere and the only shut-off valve that worked was for the whole house. Luckily, I have an awesomely handy father who was willing to drop everything and come fix things this morning. Even so, I had to keep the kids on task homeschooling while making sure my father had everything he needed to repair the problem. Needless to say, blog posts get a short shrift at that point. But, everything is fixed, the water is back on, and I have a short story from the 2014 Campbellian Anthology.

Published: April 2013 in Clarkesworld

Genre: science fiction

Length: 12 pages

Setting: the planet Samutthewi, far future

Summary: As the Costeya Hegemony moves to take over another planet, Lykesca has plans to subvert the populace. She enlists the help of Esithu to create a viral message that could be carried along the official data feed to create a new reality.

Final thoughts: I had a hard time following the plotline of this story. There was too much going on and all of it seemed confusing. Esithu was undergoing surgery to become androgynous and multi-bodied. At the same time, we have the technical aspects of the mind hack Lykesca was planning. Lykesca had some long-term plan in place, but I never really did figure out what she was working for, which made it difficult for me to figure out what was happening and why. There may be some cultural differences I’m missing, but this just wasn’t my cup of tea.

Title comes from: It was the name of a song released as the vector for the mind hack.

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