Saturday, January 17, 2009

a weekend of sci-fi shorts

The weekend has arrived for Carl's Out of This World Mini-Challenge! He's hosting it as a part of Dewey's Books Reading Challenge, but anyone is welcome to participate. Of course, it also corresponds with Carl's Sci-Fi Experience, which runs through the end of February. Basically, it just involves reading one or more science fiction short stories. Sounds like fun, right? Yeah, I thought so, too!

Not sure what the best way to do this might be. First thought I'd just keep this as a draft and then post it at the end of the weekend. But I think instead, I'll just post it and update it as I read more stories. I hope to get in quite a few, but who knows what the weekend will bring. (After all, Rich is still in the sunny Bahamas, so all emergencies, large and small, from spider captures to cat barf clean-ups to mustard on the couch, are solely mine to deal with.)

Okay, on with the short stories:

1. "The Father Thing" by Philip K. Dick. This story actually doesn't count for the mini-challenge, as I read it a couple of days ago, but since we're talking sci-fi shorts, I figured I mention it. A few days back, Carl had a great post about a bunch of sci-fi stories he'd read on-line, along with links to them. He described this story with, "Picture a Leave It To Beaver episode written by H.P. Lovecraft." Come on, am I the only one who finds that description irresistible?!! And the story really was a treat! I have to admit that there were a few places where it felt a bit disjointed...almost like there were supposed to breaks in the text to let you know there had been a change in time or place, but the breaks were missing. But the story itself was really fun. Fun in a creepy, slightly gross sort of way. It totally reminds me of one of those old 1950s horror movies. Little boy discovers his dad's body has been "taken over" by...something. Employs the help of a couple other neighborhood boys. Discovery of what the "something" is, and of what's in the bamboo patch...still leaves me a little skitchy.

2. "Orange" by Neil Gaiman. (From The Starry Rift edited by Jonathan Strahan.) This morning's first story was again one of pure fun. Very original. Not the events, so much. As again we've got a person being "taken over" by something. We've got beings from outer space. But the way that this story is written is something quite unique. One reads the answers, given by a seventeen-year-old girl, to some sort of questionaire or interview. However, the questions themselves are not included, so the reader is left to fill these in on his/her own. In a weird sort of way, it almost felt interactive. Anyway, it made for a great start to the mini-challenge.

Whew...the kids aren't making it easy, but I finally snuck in another story:

3. "Ass-Hat Magic Spider" by Scott Westerfeld. (From The Starry Rift edited by Jonathan Strahan.) I honestly don't know how to describe this story. And frankly, I'm not sure I want to, because it's a little treasure that needs to be discovered completely on one's own. But I will tell you this, if you're reading this then you almost certainly love books. And if you love books, you'll love this story. Really. It's wonderful.

Okay, been wanting to get this one in all day, but as it's on-line (here), and everyone seems to "need" the computer today, it hasn't been easy:

4. "The Menace From Earth" by Robert Heinlein. Another good story. You know what is truly amazing me with this mini-challenge? The variety. This story was so completely different from the others. It sort of had a "young adult" feel to it, if that makes any sense. It's told by Holly, a very smart and sassy 15-year-old. You can't help but love her. This is sort of teen romance sort of story, and yet so very sci-fi. Oh, and one other thing, if Carl hadn't mentioned that this story was written in the 1950s, I never would have believed it. Honestly, it really feels so very today.

If you have just a couple minutes, go read this:

5. "The Home Team" by Greg Wickenhofer. Super short little story. You know how frustrating it is to buy new appliances only to have them act up immediately? Well, it may just get worse in the future. Or better. Depends on how you look at it.

Didn't manage to get in nearly as many stories as I'd hoped yesterday. You know, there were chess games to be played, and t-shirts to be painted, and snowballs to be thrown. But today's a new day, and we'll see what we can squeeze in. Of course, my ability to concentrate is somewhat worse than normal (and normal's pretty bad), because I'm just so damn excited that Rich will be arriving home late tonight!!!

But back to stories. Eva has a great post with tons of links from the stories she read yesterday. I'd planned to focus on more stories from The Starry Rift today, but some of the stories she talked about just sound too good to pass up. In fact, that's where my first read of the day came from. It can be found here (just scroll down for the link to the story) at Rusty's By the way, isn't his site incredible?!! Okay, to the story:

6. "All Summer in a Day" by Ray Bradbury. What can I's Ray Bradbury!!! And it's that beautiful Ray Bradbury writing that I could just lose myself in for days on end. It's a wonderful little story. But so very, very sad. Very. A story of childhood cruelty that could happen anywhere, but not in quite the same manner as it happens here on Venus.

7. "Cheats" by Ann Halam. (From The Starry Rift edited by Jonathan Strahan.) To be perfectly honest, I wasn't sure I was going to like this one. I'd read both in Becky's and Chris's reviews that it had to do with gaming. And I hate to admit it, but that is just a subject on which I have zero knowledge. Yep, completely clueless. So I was really afraid that I just wouldn't understand this story. But you know what, while it wasn't my favorite read of the mini-challenge, I really did like it! And while I do have to say I didn't totally understand the science of it, that in no way detracted from my overall enjoyment of the story. I wish I could talk a little about the story itself, but I'm afraid I'll word it wrong...a girl, her little brother, lost in a game world. Yeah, see that totally doesn't get to the depths of this story at all. Sorry.

Another of Eva's recommendations:

8. "The Fluted Girl" by Paolol Bacigulupi. (Can be found here.) Wow. Seriously, wow. I have no clue how to describe this story. But it is achingly beautiful. And horrendously disturbing. Set in the future, but in many ways feeling like the past. And again, this story is so very different from any of the other stories I've read this weekend. I cannot get over how incredibly diverse the world of science fiction is.


Bogsider said...

Interesting with a challenge about short stories. I haven't read sci fi in a looong time and I haven't read short stories in an even longer time. LOL. I could be tempted to take both things up again in 2009. Maybe not now, but later, in the last part of 2009 where I will have more time for reading. I also enjoyed reading your posts about the picture books. They all looked good! I don't have any kids in my life small enough to appreciate picture books, as they are all into the chapter books. Although a few friends of mine actually had some babies the the past year. Maybe those kids would be interested in a year or two :-)

Nymeth said...

Must read Orange! And the Scott Westerfeld story! I should have done like you and Chris and ordered The Sarry Rift. Ah well...too late for this challenge, but never too late overall :P

Kailana said...

I haven't even started reading short stories yet. I am not a big short story person, so this really will be a challenge for me! I don't own any in book format either, so I have to read them online...

Anonymous said...

oooooh! these look good!

as carl knows, i'm a big fan of dick, so "the father thing" sounds right up my alley. dick is really good at short stories - his style suits it. its very punchy and he gets right in there!

i know what you mean about the disjointedness. thats something that is a feature of all his work. you just get used to it after a while.

the gaiman story sounds very cool too. wow. alarmingly, i have read very little- hang on, i've actually read NO gaiman short stories. bloody hell. have to amend that before long...!

Kim L said...

I'm glad you've had success so far with your sci fi short story reading. I am looking forward to doing some of my own later tonight.

Chris said...

You read Orange and Ass Hat too!! How many times do you get to write a sentence like that? :p Weren't they wonderful! They're tied for my favorite stories of the day. I'm really digging this collection so far....and can I please be a teenager again and laugh at the first sentence of the second paragraph of JP's comment? :p

Debi said...

Oh, you should just join in this weekend! There's lots of great sci-fi stories on-line. I didn't realize I would have so much fun with this!

That's right, never too late! I think you'll absolutely adore "Ass-Hat Magic Spider"!

Kailana and Kim,
Can't wait to hear what you end up reading!

That's good to hear about the disjointedness...sometimes I worry that it's just me.
Oh yes, you really must read some Gaiman shorts...he's a true master!

LOL...I am so glad I'm not the only one who is so juvenile at times! I just burst out laughing when I read that. Wonder what Carl would have to say about it?!! :)
And I agree with far I'd definitely say that The Starry Rift was worth the money. I haven't gotten that far, but still.

Chris said...

I can't wait until Carl gets over here to read the comments :p Ok....I'll stop snickering now, I promise.

Eva said...

Debi!! It's not fair-first I read about how great this anthology is at Chris', and find out my library doesn't have it, and then you torment me as well. :p


Carl V. said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed the stories I reviewed the other day. You are exactly right about Father Thing. I bet there were some natural line breaks in the printed version that let you know that scene/time had changed. That is one thing that online stories don't always get right.

Menace From Earth does feel very contemporary, doesn't it?

I read Ass-Hat Magic Spider tonight and thought it was excellent. Truly excellent. If that is any indication of how the rest of Starry Rift is going to go then I'm in for a real treat!

And JP, you're killing me!!!

Nymeth said...

"as carl knows, i'm a big fan of dick"


Sorry, it just had to be done. I'll behave now :P

Off to read the Greg Wickenhofer story!

Debi said...

You're right, it had to be done. :)

Hope you like "The Home Team"...good thing about that one is that even if you don't, you haven't wasted much time.

And if you get a chance, and haven't already done it, go read the Bradbury story...I really think you'll like it!

Nymeth said...

I'll go read the Bradbury story now!

Carl V. said...

I enjoyed Cheats when I read it this morning. I wasn't always sure where it was going to go, but I ended up really appreciating it.

Debi said...

I know just what you mean! For me, the ending was perfect! Not what I expected (well, I don't know what I expected), but it totally made the story for me.

Rusty said...


Glad to see that you enjoyed "The Home Team" and "The Fluted Girl" - those were some great stories! I really enjoyed your mini-reviews, I'll have to try those other ones. Thanks.

Bookfool said...

I added The Starry Rift to my wish list after Chris's reviews of several short stories, but you can share the blame if you'd like. I'm doubly convinced, now!

Trish said...

Rich home? Already? I'm sure it doesn't seem like "already" to you, but I'm thrilled for you. I missed the mini-challenge information, but I'm enjoying reading everyone's synopses. I've been hearing so much about Philip K. Dick lately!

Carl V. said...

"achingly beautiful. And horrendously disturbing" is right. I just read this in the Pump Six collection and was blown away by just how creative it was. A rich story that packs such an emotional wallop. It has been 30 minutes and I still ache inside. He is an incredibly talented author. I'll be reading more.

Anonymous said...

This one sounds like one I would love love love...but I'm reluctant to sign up to do anything these days.

I love Dick. That just looks wrong but I think in context, you know which kind of dick I'm talking about.

Ok, I'll go now and stop smutting up your nice,clean comments! LOL

Debi said...

Well, sweetie, you fit right in... Check the comments above--you're not the dick lover!