If you’ve taken a look at my reading list you’ll see that I have been spending a large amount of time looking through Science Fiction Short stories from 2017. I read every morning in the WordPress reader but on special occasions I get the urge to do some work and sit down with a short story and rage through it in a wildfire of imagination.
That is- I haven’t been keeping up with my normal reading quotas lately…
What I never expected was to feature or review a writer that I found in one of these short story collections. Short stories, for me, are an exercise in concise storytelling- an attempt to put as much as possible in the smallest amount of space. Some people take this too far and miss the happy mediums of a good story entirely. To me a good short has the full story circle, gives you a clear setting without over-describing, and either finishes with a catharsis for the reader or causes the reader to sit down and reflect for a while on what just happened. I want a story that pulls me into its world and rips me back out- and I want it to do that in less than 20 minutes.
Just about every story I’ve read in Dozois’s collection does that for me, but this week I was treated by current Hugo Award finalist and 2016 Hugo recipient Naomi Kritzer’s “Waiting Out the End of the World in Patty’s Place Cafe”.
In this short, the world is going to end in 16 hours when a 4.3km diameter Asteroid will take Earth as its vacation destination. This news prompts Lorien, an estranged 23 year old college grad to take a cross country drive home and patch up family relations. Unfortunately for her no one is interested in working at a gas station when the world is about to end- and so she is caught in Belle Fourche, South Dakota at the only place still open for business: Patty’s Place Cafe.
The story is simple- yet instead of the blatant sexual and violent hedonism we’ve come to expect from Armageddon stories we get a calming experience of true humanity: people being people by helping others and making love to fate. This, to me, seems like pure realism- showing how a good end would look for us while tackling issues involving homosexuality and trans-sexuality, as well as overbearing religiously indoctrinating families.
I couldn’t help but think what I would want on the last day of my life as I read this. I found that while the throws of passionate love making would make a titillating end to my life, I’d rather go as they do, with people worth my time and with activities of pure joy at life. After all, there is no strong meaning to our lives- we are set to be snuffed out at some point. Death is always watching and waiting and she cares little what you have left to do. I would rather take life with the grain of salt that it is, and find something that makes me truly happy and do that when I die.
How would you approach death? Would you hike up a mountain and take a deep breath one last time? Would you find pleasure in hedonistic violence? Or like Lorien, would you choose to be with complete strangers and not only accept fate, but take pride in its acceptance. The end of our world is just around the corner- you will not be here forever- how will you face it?
Naomi Kritzer won the 2016 Hugo award for Best Short Story and the Locus Award for her story “Cat Pictures Please”. She and her work can be found at her website here with links to her novels and stories in just about every medium. She has not asked me to do this review nor have I requested permission to do one of her work. While in Reviewniverse I usually try to critique the Author’s choices, I can only recommend you read her work yourself and make your own decisions. This story has made a fan out of me, and I’ll likely pick up her books before the year is out. I encourage you to do the same.
And as always: keep reading, my friends.
If you are a writer and are interested in being featured or critiqued I encourage you to join the featured writer collection by clicking the button below. It is a free service I provide to anyone interested as a gift to you,the writer. I take from it no financial gain and use only the links you provide me for your work. If you are published I normally purchase your work to feature you. All I ask is that you follow the instructions laid out in the submission form.
Those interested in being critiqued in a podcast may use the same page to submit- I warn you that we will be looking at your work in the interest of giving feedback to you and other writers and we will not apologize for your writing. The podcast will start sometime soon April 2019.