This week’s stories are about the things we overlook — such as ghosts and intelligent life. They’re also about parents — the ones we cling to and the ones we pull away from. Also: Parrots, monkeys, and turtles.
The Great Silence by Allora & Calzadilla & Ted Chiang | e-flux journal
The universe is so vast that intelligent life must surely have arisen many times. The universe is also so old that even one technological species would have had time to expand and fill the galaxy. Yet there is no sign of life anywhere except on Earth. Humans call this the Fermi paradox.
One proposed solution to the Fermi paradox is that intelligent species actively try to conceal their presence, to avoid being targeted by hostile invaders.
Speaking as a member of a species that has been driven nearly to extinction by humans, I can attest that this is a wise strategy.
It makes sense to remain quiet and avoid attracting attention.
Chiang collaborated with visual artists Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla to create a story based on their video piece “The Great Silence.” Not having seen the original video I can’t comment on how well each piece compliments each other. Even without that background, the story is moving, heart-breaking and beautiful — and is made up of at least 60% lines that will be quoted forever.
Image from Allora & Calzadilla’s video installation “The Great Silence”
How To Walk Through Historic Graveyards in the Post-Digital Age by Fran Wilde | Asimov’s April/May 2015
Ghosts aren’t anything new, though. So, officially, I’m not reporting them anymore. Even local ones.
My left eye has less damage. The other eye still holds images that Ben and IARPA couldn’t strip: James, Sara, Mej. The roof that grew a hole of flame. The falling bird. Ben took my platoon’s unit number and anything that would reveal the incident’s location, but I’m guessing most families don’t know what really happened to their kids any more than I do. I can see it in my friends’ faces all the time, especially in that eye.
Because the right eye’s more sensitive around the edges, Tallulah, former star of stage and screen, usually shows up at the corner of my left eye first, like she knows that won’t startle me as much.
Tallulah always knew where a camera pointed in life. Apparently this is true in death too.
The April/May issue is technically not the current one, but you can still get the eBook version. So read this story! It stands on that knife-edge between science fiction and fantasy and does what all speculative fiction does well: asks difficult questions about the nature of the the world we live in and the world we create.
Image Credit: Fuzzy Gerdes on Flickr
Cloth Mother By Sarah Pauling | Strange Horizons
“Vita, I want a turtle.”
Mazie looped a finger through her hair, pulling a strand between her lips. She bit down, small teeth bright against black curls. Vita made a note of the alignment: jaw exhibiting signs of overbite.
“We don’t have the resources for that, Mazie.”
Mazie scowled, snuggling further into the plush armchair. “You know what I mean. A pretend one.”
“Define ‘pretend,’ please.”
“A . . . a projection, probably? You know, just a made-up turtle. Like you did with the Hundred Acres.”
Vita shut off Mazie’s cartoons and began the process of cross-checking energy supplies and surpluses. A certain budget was allowed every year for enrichment expenditures, as long as they met educational guidelines.
“Would you accept responsibility for its care and protection?”
Mazie made a “tsk”ing noise, leaning forward in her chair in order to flop backwards more dramatically. “Vit-a, why do I have to take care of it if it’s fake?”
“The Charter stipulates that we should seek out opportunities to develop your maternal instinct. Your request seems compatible.”
There’s a strong synergy between this story and the next one, because they both deal with family and relationships and parents and growing up. This one deals most heavily in sacrifice.
The Pieces By Teresa Milbrodt | Strange Horizons
When my mother calls after breakfast on Saturday morning, she’s using the extremely calm tone of voice she only employs when something has gone terribly wrong. After the basic “Hello,” and “How are you?” she says, “Well, it’s finally happened, your father has gone to pieces, or had a nervous breakdown. I’m not sure which, but you should probably come over.”
I was at my parents’ house a week ago for dinner since it was my dad’s birthday. We had chocolate cake and Dad looked morose, but he always gets depressed on his birthday. Mom says he’s doing a life inventory, pondering what he’s done so far and what he can do in his remaining years and if it will be enough to justify his time on the earth and the resources he’s consumed.
I thought my father was just sitting with a crossword at the kitchen table, but really he’s considering mortality, the additions and subtractions that make life worth living. He seems too young for that, but then I realize he’s only six years younger than my grandfather was when he died, and he’s already outlived his own grandfather, who had heart problems at sixty-two. What equations does my dad do in his head and not tell us about?
“He’s in the living room,” Mom says when I arrive.
When I walk through the door I see my father has indeed gone to pieces, like a decapitated doll torn apart by an angry kid.
Dads just fall apart sometimes. And there’s not much you can do about it, except take them out for coffee and wait for them to pull themselves together again.
At the end of the month there are always stories that I liked but didn’t love — but I still feel are worth checking out. So now I’ll mention them here at the end of the month. And I’ll let you tell me if I’m horribly wrong and they are the most amazing of fictions!
Sun’s East, Moon’s West by Merie Haskell | Lightspeed Magazine
Goodnight Earth by Annie Bellet | Lightspeed Magazine
The Proper Motion of Extraordinary Stars by Kali Wallace | Shimmer