- “In the Forests of Memory” by E. Lily Yu, Terraform, November 25, 2018 (science fiction short story)
- “Spicer’s Modest Success” by Jared VanDyke, Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, November 27, 2018 (science fiction short story)
- “Overvalued” by Mark Stasenko, Slate, November 27, 2018 (science fiction short story)
- “So, One of Those Tiny Alien Spaceships Has Flown into Your House. Now What?” by Laura Pearlman, Nature, November 28, 2018 (science fiction short story)
This week’s all-SF batch of fiction includes two flash pieces and two mid-length shorts. Each pair contains a funny piece and a serious one.
In the serious flash, a poor woman is living “In the Forests of Memory,” a cemetery of the future in which the rich dead are remembered by holograms insofar as they are remembered at all. Things don’t go well for her but the story did well until it dove past the tragic mark into bathos. In the funny flash, the narrator tells you how to survive the “Tiny Alien Spaceships” in a nice blend of humor and horror. In the other comic tale, “Modest Success,” a radio personality who’s built a toaster-like robotic co-host to help him give love advice finds interesting parallels between their relationship and the relationship of a couple of aliens who arrive one night. But, when one alien is huge and angry, the advice had better be good. This could as easily be fantasy as SF and, in either case, depends a lot on whether the humor works for you.
“It puts the lotion on its skin.” The deadly serious “Overvalued” is a mild extrapolation in which, some time after 2024 (maybe 2032), a market betting on the earnings of people comes into being and one woman makes her money by finding overvalued people and shorting them. In this story, she finds that a teen prodigy is making strides towards curing cancer but is prone to depression and self-mutilation so the woman exposes her, making a killing. Literally, as the girl commits suicide and the company rakes in $32 million. The woman’s self-loathing and her husband’s disapproval cause marital problems and an attempt at a career change which may result in a bigger change than she expects.
There are a lot of little things wrong with this. A story that has a hitman and a financier should generally start with the hitman. As little time as possible should be spent on detailing what’s basically accounting. And Chekhov wouldn’t approve of this story. That said, it contains a disgusting and horrifying, but important, idea which is practically real now and likely will be completely real soon and does dig into the sordid nature of this well, not least by calling the girl an “asset” and an “it.” While I can’t fully recommend it, it’s certainly notable and, if it sounds interesting, give it a try.