Friday, May 23, 2008

Satisfying Short SF

I think I'll propose that one of the key differences between "mainstream" and "genre" fiction is that in genre fiction, when people go searching for answers, they find them. Why are the crops blighted? See Evil Wizard in Yonder Tower. Whodunit? The Butler. What is the common thread linking 12 exceptional graduates (the members of which include senators, celebrities, pro-athletes and Nobel prize winners) of a small mid-western high school? That's the question in "Reunion." A woman comes to town before their thirtieth high school reunion, looking for answers as to what happened to make this small group so exceptional. The early death of one of their classmates may hold some clues (and a fairly cynical moral for the story, if you want to read that into it). It's lighter than some stories that Robert Reed has already produced this year (see "Five Thrillers" in April's F&SF among others.) I think Reed is one of my favorite short story authors simply because he provides satisfying explanations for his puzzles pretty much every time. It may not be avant-garde, but it's good sf.

"Rebecca's Locket" is a very brief piece of amusing "what if?" by S. L. Gilbow. What if you could download someone's personality, before they died, into a small piece of jewelry? Perhaps just big enough for a small camera, microphone and speakers? You could be comforted by the personality of your loved one speaking to you in your time of grief... or not. The final fate of Jerry, the gentleman in the locket, will come as no surprise to the attentive reader. It's a funny reminder that sometimes, functional immortality is NOT a boon to those "left behind" (see "Helen's Last Will" in March's Analog for the more romanticized version of cyber-life after death).

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