This week: a speculative sandwich with one story partly about how hard it is to hold on and one partly about how hard it is to let go, with a superscience adventure between!
John Crowley (1942-12-01)
“Snow” (Omni, November 1985)
This opens with Charlie telling us how his deceased wife’s ex-husband bought her a “Wasp” and the contract that goes with it. The Wasp is a recording device designed to follow her around and store eight thousand hours of her life at a repository where she is to be buried and where visitors may come to commune with these recordings. It seems Georgie is older than Charlie but still young when she does die and the body of the story consists of his coming to visit her resting place and his experiences with this technology, as well as his interactions with the director of the place when he encounters problems with the technology. There are a lot of ways such a story could go but the way this one chooses is to be a stylish, dark, philosophical meditation on memory, death, and entropy using literal and technological snow as a symbol and which seems to show the ultimate emptiness of life, the universe, and everything, but which seems to vector toward a zen-like peace which keeps on keeping on. Not my kind of story, but weighty and skillfully done.
Milton A. Rothman (1919-11-30/2001-10-06)
“Heavy Planet” (Astounding, August 1939)
[Adapted from my 2019-10-21 review of The Expert Dreamers.]
Pseudonymous Lee Gregor’s “Heavy Planet” reads a bit like “Hal Clement meets Thunderball.” People are living on a planet with incredible gravity such that steel is almost like kleenex to them. However, they have enemies and need atomic weapons to deal with them so, when an atomic-powered spaceship goes down in the ocean, the protagonist and some of those enemies converge on the wreckage and tense combat ensues. This thrilling tale is simultaneously action- and idea-packed and I enjoyed it a lot.
Lucy Taylor (1951-11-30)
“The Family Underwater” (Close to the Bone, 1993)
This story bristles with sharply horrific phrases jabbing like fire urchin spines and comical ones glinting like bioluminescence in the dark deep. It’s set in a house filled with water in which family members may metamorphose into sea creatures but, for all that, it’s an all-too realistic story of abusive, dysfunctional families, habituation, and, worst of all, how difficult it can be to escape from them even if you’ve left.