Tag Archives: short stories

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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Short Stories by M. Darusha Wehm

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

The Care and Feeding of Mammalian Bipeds, V. 2.1

Published: November, 2012 in EscapePod (you can either read or listen to the story at that link)

Genre: science fiction

Setting: someone’s home, near future

Summary: The story is told from the viewpoint of a robot that is just entering service into a family’s home. The family thinks it’s getting a house-bot, but the robot sees itself as caring for a herd of humans. It remarks on events happening within the home and thinks all is well with its herd.

Final thoughts: I remember hearing this story when it came out in EscapePod (it’s one of the short story podcasts I listen to regularly) and it enjoyed just as much now as then. It’s fun to try to figure out what the robot is referring to (the evening “chanting sessions” between the husband and wife, for example). The outsider view says everything is well with the family. The human view, which is able to interpret the situations correctly, realizes the parents are working toward a divorce and the kids are suffering as the parents constantly fight.

Title comes from: The robot is continually referring to a manual to interpret the actions of its human herd. The manual is called The Care and Feeding of Mammalian Bipeds, V. 2.1

Modern Love

Published: May 2012 in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (you can find an audio or print version of it here)

Genre: science fiction

Setting: a college town, near future

Summary: Marian is obsessed with Graeme, a barista at the coffee shop. She’s following him home after work, and watching him go to class. It’s totally creepy, until we flip to his point of view and find out he spiked one of her lattes with a custom pheromone and now she’s obsessed with him.

Final thoughts: As the story started, I thought it was just a gender-swapped version of a stalker story. Interesting to see it with the woman creeping on the guy, but not all that interesting. That thought changed when the perspective of the story changed to Graeme’s voice. He created the situation by surreptitiously drugging Marian and is happy to be the focus of an obsession. Now he’s the total creep and she’s the one being used. A totally unexpected twist that will keep me thinking about the story for a while.

Title comes from: Marian is totally in love with Graeme, but only because he got a custom pheromone created to cause the obsession.

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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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Another Word for World by Ann Leckie

Sorry I didn’t get a weekend post up. Miss Adventure and I went to a contra dance Saturday night and then we had a soccer tournament for Mr. Curiosity most of Sunday. Today, I have the last story in theĀ Future Visions: Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft anthology (still free for the Kindle!) by Ann Leckie. I’ve been eagerly anticipating this story since I loved her Imperial Radch trilogy.

Published: 2015

Genre: science fiction

Setting: an exoplanet, far future Continue reading

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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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The Tell by David Brin

This is the next story in the Future Visions anthology. I’ve read several books by David Brin, most recently rereading the Uplift saga.

Published: 2016

Genre: science fiction

Setting: near future, mostly in Vegas Continue reading

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