A prime example is Chris Panatier’s contemporary fantasy The Excursionist of JCPenney. It introduces us to Lorraine, a quietly awkward older Floridian of limited means and experiences, whose ordinary existence is unwittingly balanced on the precarious edge of corporate whim, as are so many. The simple telling of her life in a period of approaching crisis gradually opens our eyes to something far less mundane at play, and the result is a wholly good-natured reward for someone who has put up with a life’s trials, old and new, large and small, as do so many.
The Fabulist observes that “Art saves lives and changes the world”, and does its bit towards that ideal goal by presenting more of the seemingly mundane in Andy Searce’s Ansible, named for the iconic, technologically magical tool of communication that featured in the work of Ursula K. LeGuin. Unsurprisingly, a similar marvel features here.
This flash piece glimpses a father and son, lonely but for each other, yet also self-sufficient. They persist through what could be the dustbowl of the Great Depression, or if not that then some present or future period of similar hardship. Through them we are allowed to witness a fleeting, touching moment… and then that moment is over, and the reader is left to decide for themself whether what transpired is transformative for all concerned – or simply a thing that happened once, in lives that must and will continue on regardless.
And for contrast with these, let’s try something so far from the everyday it beggars belief to even consider the comparison. I won’t trouble to comment on what drives Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores as a venue; its name alone seems to do that quite thoroughly. The story Tomorrow is a Difficult Proposition, on the other hand, by Kris Bowser, I will. It’s an unexpectedly wild ride, given its opening phase: a reality-spanning spatio-temporal rollercoaster all in pursuit of a missed opportunity, an oversight – another mundanity, in fact, a commonplace occurrence of the sort that might become a source of life-long regret, and in this case fuels a radically more expansive quest to regain something lost.
I caught from it an echo of Ted Chiang’s The Story of Your Life – a terribly unfair association to inflict on any story, and one which you should certainly ignore. Except, there is a certain general thematic similarity, of course, taken from an opposite perspective. And, as a reviewer, it’s always worth stubbing your toe on one of the greatest works of science fiction ever written if it means you can accidentally recommend it all over again.
I’ll try not to do that in the next Short Reviews as well.
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