October 19th, 2017, Fable by Teju Cole, The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2017, Originally published in The New Inquiry, 2016.
Blurb: A fable metaphor about the symbiotic relationship Trump had and has with the media. The more outrageous he is louder the media becomes. Often to his determent, it appears, but always he escapes unscathed. In this fable a monster who is not powerful, charming, or skilled at oratory is able to continuously gain in power when people talk about him. It is a sad look at how much of that which Trump says is "fake news," is the very platform that gives him such power.
October 20th, 2017, The Future Is Blue by Catherynne M. Valente, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017, Originally published in Drowned Worlds, 2016.
Blurb: An immersive story about civilization living on trash heaps floating in the middle of the oceans, which now span the entire world. This could be a side story to the old Kevin Costner film, Water World. When a young woman doesn't believe a traveling circus who proclaims the continents have been rediscovered she sabotages a giant engine that would propel Garbagetown to these found land masses. But readers never know if they are real or not--though we have an idea. A very immersive story in a world so unlike our own, yet still familiar in some ways. The main character is tragic. One you care about and root for, even when she does the most unpopular thing. If there is one criticism it is the abruptness of the end. (B)
October 21st, 2017, One Person Means Alone by Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers, The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2017, Originally published in The Missouri Review, 2016.
Blurb: An essay about an American woman who goes to teach English at a college in China. The difficulties she faces in being in a homosexual relationship/being gay, and the loneliness she feels due to the fact she tell people about her sexuality, or her relationship that ends once she is in China. While those are some of the main issues in this piece, something I think the author captures super well is the daily confusion someone faces when they can't read all the bus signs and street signs, what it feels like to be stared at when you go into public space as a white person in certain countries. As someone who lived in South Korea for over a year, this author put the unsettling nature of (finally) being a minority into perspective. (A)
October 22nd, 2017, On The Fringes of The Fractal by Greg Van Eekhout, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017, Originally published in 2113: Stories Inspired by the Music of Rush, 2016.
Blurb: A crazy far future SF story about the homogenization of our country and society due to corporate influence and meritocracy. In a world where you job, race, gender, sex, ancestry, etc, etc, everything, is combined in a complex algorithm to give each person a stat score that dictates your standing in society a man helps his friend who has lost all his stat by trying to escape the suburbia only to find that the corporations recycle the blue-print of suburban society again and again in an expanding structure, so to form a fractal of suburban, meritocratic life. This story is a great critique on the myth that is meritocracy, the idea that if you work hard, you'll succeed as much as anyone else who works the same amount. This is not true in current society--nor has it ever been true. The drawback to this story is that it's so over the top at times I didn't really believe in the world, though maybe I wasn't suppose to. (B-)
October 23rd, 2017, Dearly Departed by A.J. Coan, Daily Science Fiction.
Blurb: Just to get this out of the way--this is a horribly cliche ghost story. The narrator begins to talk about how she and her husband moved into a house, and how she'd joked about it being haunted, only to reveal in the next scene that, ta-da! the narrator is actually the ghost! Pish-posh. Nothing about his piece is earned. Nothing about it is set in scene, and because of that, I, as a reader, had very little reason to believe in the narrator, the characters, or the plot. Before we put characters through hell we need to make the reader care first. (F)
October 24th, 2017, The Hidden Plague by Patrick Leonard Welch, Daily Science Fiction, 2017.
Blurb: I hesitate to state this as story or plot. It's a fictional letter from a wizard teacher at a wizard academy to his colleagues. Cliche? Yes. And it gets worse. The wizard teacher is writing about a "strange new magic," called "Science." Science has rules and jargin and all kinds of things he doesn't believe in, and it can explain things that magic can't, etc, etc. The only redeeming quality of this piece is the metaphor. The finger pointed at old generations that cling to old, mystic thinking, rather than embrace something new, different. Pass on this one. (D)
October 25th, 2017, An Appointment With Mr. Dee by A. Elizabeth Herting, Scrutiny Journal, 2017.
Blurb: A clever take on the grim reaper. One can't but recall Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, when Death is used a the main character/narrator in a piece. While Death is not the narrator here, this story revolves around the visitation of Death to an unfortunate, or perhaps fortunate character. It also puts me in mind of The Tale of the Three Brothers, the story within Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in which three brothers confront death, only to pick all the wrong things for themselves--save for one. Drawbacks--perhaps a cliche concept, and a couple awkward lines here and there, but overall a solid story. (C)
October 26th, 2017, How To Stop a Black Snake by Louise Erdrich, The Best American Nonrequired Reading: 2017, original publication The New York Times, 2016.
Blurb: This is a look at the triumphs of those at Standing Rock. It's a brief moment in the life of a woman who took up shifts chaining herself to construction equipment. For me, I can only wonder at how this story has completely dissolved within the news cycle. Sure, the DAPL was finished, but the fight these people went through is one that will continue. The threat continues, one of systemic prejudice. What, may I ask, is the likelihoods that something like DAPL would happen if it effected a majority of white, middle class, working professionals? This is a heart breaking piece not by itself, but because of the knowledge that this one struggle was so easily squelched by a government that doesn't value the well being of minorities.