Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Quick Sips - Fantastic Stories of the Imagination #231

The longest name in short SFF is back this month and Fantastic Stories of the Imagination offers up a pair of stories, one about as long as they publish and the other about as short. The two tales are quite different in tone, in message, but both do present science fictional looks at space travel and both are, admittedly, quite good. There is a feeling in both of feelings just below the surface, of characters facing situations they didn't exactly expect when venturing into space. Both in some ways also explore the idea of people who leave Earth behind still being connected to it, and in that it's a rather thematically tight issue of the publication, at least where original work is concerned. But enough of my ramblings. To the reviews!

"A Girl Named Bright" by Veronica Viscardi (2996 words)

This is a story dealing with the idea of relative aging with near-light-speed travel, where a girl named Bree, age ten, leaves with her family from Earth to a colony-world a year, and a century, away. There are Ansibles in this setting, devices that allow for instantaneous communication across great distances. The story is a series of journal entries from Bree, who is traveling and checking in with her best friend Adie throughout the trip. For her only a year is passing, and it's a difficult year, in part because back on Earth people are angry at the people who left. Looking to blame them for leaving, to punish them for it. That and everyone who left has to deal with being kind of stuck in place while the Earth keeps going. People on Earth grow old, die. Mortality is a strange thing, and to see your best friend become an old woman before your eyes is haunting, and something the story does well. It's a heartwarming tale, all told, but it does a great job with its premise, with that idea of time passing differently. Of having to think in different ways, from a different perspective, when dealing with space travel. And really it's a story about humanity staying together, refusing to make scapegoats out of those who are temporarily voiceless, stuck in time. The scale of the story is both large and small, encompassing all of Earth politics but really, at its core, about the relationship between two girls. A friendship that survives a year and a century. It's nostalgic for some older science fiction with its focus on time and Ansibles but with a more modern voice, and it's charming and fun. Indeed!

"Elements of a Successful Exit Broadcast" by Stewart C. Baker (205 words)

This is certainly one of the shortest pieces that I've reviewed on the site, but a story that still manages to pack a lot in. The story is a list, and not one that elaborates an awful lot, about what to do with a final broadcast on what must be an interstellar trip, perhaps a colonizing mission and perhaps just a transport job. The vagueness of the job does not detract from its potency, from the palpable hurt that radiates from each point. The emphasis is put on being calm, not showing the pain, and that feel of repressed emotion and pain comes through in the list itself, that the words are calm and guiding but coming from someplace raw and bleeding. There is a great sense something terrible has happened, and that in some ways it takes being in such a situation to give advice on it. That this list is both a manual for others and its own successful exit broadcast. That it follows its own advice, though it slips a bit, as anyone would. That it keeps the pain just under the surface, slipping only momentarily up to show in the quiver of a lip, the hesitation in a word. It's a gripping story, a very, very short story, and a fine read.

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