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Tag: A to Z

A to Z Reviews: “Signs and Symbols,” by Vladimir Nabokov

A to Z Reviews: “Signs and Symbols,” by Vladimir Nabokov

A to Z ReviewsVladimir Nabokov originally published “Signs and Symbols” in the New Yorker on May 15, 1948, although the editor, Katharine White, switched the order of the title to “Symbols and Signs.” Nabakov changed it back for subsequent publication, as well as reverting other changes White had made to the story. In 2020, Ann and Jeff Vandermeer included the story in their massive anthology The Big Book of Modern Fantasy.

A couple is trying to do their parental duty by visiting their son for his birthday. Despite loving their son, the fact that he suffers from referential mania and lives in an asylum makes them vaguely uncomfortable in visiting him as they are never quite sure what to expect, whether he’s having a good or bad day, and how well he will interact with the real world.

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A to Z Reviews: “Know Your Target Audience,” by Dan Mygind

A to Z Reviews: “Know Your Target Audience,” by Dan Mygind

A to Z Reviews

In 2010, Carl-Eddy Skovgaard selected several examples of Danish science fiction to be translated into English. The stories were published in the anthology Sky City and included Dan Mygind’s “Know Your Target Audience,” which originally appeared in 2007 as “Kend din målgruppe” in Skovgaard’s anthology Lige under overfladen: en dansk sf originalantologi.

Mygind’s story is set in a futuristic world five decades after a dirty bomb exploded in the Copenhagen subway system, leaving the city uninhabitable. Straight Talk is an entertainment and news, or perhaps propaganda, organization that has just had a major success running the World Song Competition. While celebrating, Straight Talk CEO Ole Kraft finds himself cornered by Peter Nielsen, one of the company’s employees who has a tendency toward believing in conspiracy theories.

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A to Z Reviews: “The City of Silence,” by Ma Boyong

A to Z Reviews: “The City of Silence,” by Ma Boyong

A to Z Reviews

Over the past several years, the Anglophonic worlds has become more aware of the science fiction being published in modern China. This is due, in part, to the work and outreach being done by Science Fiction World, a magazine from China with a circulation of more than 130,000 as well as publishers like Neil Clarke who have sought out Chinese fiction to publish in translation.

Ken Liu, who has won multiple Hugo Awards, a Nebula Award, and a World Fantasy Award, has also worked to bring Chinese science fiction to English readers with his translation of Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem and the publication of the anthology Invisible Planets, which offered translations of a dozen short stories by seven Chinese authors. One of the authors included in the book is Ma Boyong, represented by his story “The City of Silence,” which Ken Liu translated into English.

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A to Z Reviews: “The Butcher of Darkside Hover,” by Jonathan Sean Lyster

A to Z Reviews: “The Butcher of Darkside Hover,” by Jonathan Sean Lyster

A to Z Reviews

Jonathan Sean Lyster only has two published stories, the first appeared in 2020 and the second, “The Butcher of Darkside Hover,” appeared in the  October 2022 issue of Analog. There is a strong resonance between “The Butcher of Darkside Hover” and the classic story “The Cold Equations,”  by Tom Godwin.

The story is set on a base located on the farside of the moon, although as the story progresses, it becomes clear that it is actually in orbit over the farside of the moon, which is one of the issues with the story. Lyster slowly provides details of his world, but never fully and in a manner that means the reader is putting together the pieces to get an idea of what his world looks like. The process means that the reader’s perception is constantly changing regarding the setting when it should be more focused on the problem presented for the characters and their solution.

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A to Z Reviews: “The Adventure of You,” by Paul La Farge

A to Z Reviews: “The Adventure of You,” by Paul La Farge

A to Z ReviewsPaul LaFarge wrote five novels before his death in January 2023 from cancer. His essays and fiction appeared in a variety of magazines. Only a small portion of his work was within the genre, but the story “The Adventure of You,” which appeared in Gordon van Gelder’s original anthology Welcome to Dystopia in 2019 is one of those genre stories.

In an unspecified time and place in the future, John Arnold Arnold is working as a debris removal specialist for a company. The story is told through a memo from the company’s HR department, ostensibly to help Arnold’s mental health, but it quickly becomes clear that the program being offered is more for the company’s benefit than Arnold’s. The memos offer an explanation of the situation in the company town for the reader while providing indoctrination for the workers.

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A to Z Reviews: Sync, by K.P. Kyle

A to Z Reviews: Sync, by K.P. Kyle

A to Z Reviews

K.P. Kyle’s debut novel Sync is the first of three novel-length works that I’ll be looking at in this series. Published by Allium Press, in 2019, Kyle offers the story of Brigid, who picks up a hitchhiker on a cold, rainy night in New England and she drives home to Boston. Although Jason doesn’t smell very good and seems to be suffering from paranoia, Brigid invites him to spend the night at her apartment so he can get cleaned up and get a good night’s sleep before getting on a train for somewhere.

When a burglar breaks into Brigid’s home that evening, she and Jason go on the lam, trying to avoid the men who apparently actually are after Jason. Jason also reveals his secret to Brigid. He was part of an experiment that allows him to temporarily jump from one reality to another, although the process leaves him naked.

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A to Z Reviews: “Captain Starlight and the Flying Saucer,” by S. Ivan Jurisevic

A to Z Reviews: “Captain Starlight and the Flying Saucer,” by S. Ivan Jurisevic

A to Z Reviews

An interesting coincidence occurred when I hit the Js. The first author in my collection was Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen, whose story “The Haunted House on Rocketworks Street” appeared in an anthology put together in honor of Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, Finland. The final author in my collection in S. Ivan Jurisevic, whose story “Captain Starlight and the Flying Saucer” appeared in Interzone issue 146, which proclaims that it is the “Special Australian WorldCon issue.”

Although this is Jurisevic’s only story listed in the Internet Science Fiction Database, the about an author blurb at the end notes that he previously published a story about Captain Starlight in the magazine Omega. In any event, this story is a typical tall tale about a folkloric character. It reads as if Paul Bunyan or Pecos Bill had relocated to the Australian outback and helped form the landscape.

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A to Z Reviews: “The Haunted House on Rocketworks Street,” by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

A to Z Reviews: “The Haunted House on Rocketworks Street,” by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

A to Z Reviews

Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen captures the nostalgic, carefree summer days of childhood in “The Haunted House on Rocketworks Street,” which also demonstrates the universality of human experience.  The story does have a frame which becomes important, but the meat of the story follows for kids on a summer day, who have the freedom of movement on Rocketworks Street, free from responsibility or parental controls.

The four kids, leader Albin, Max, Henry, and Henry’s sister Henrietta, spend their summer running up and down the street, staying out of sight of their parents, and working up tests of their courage. The fact that all of the parents who live on Rocketworks Street have been pulled into the fireworks factory from which the street took its name, just makes their freedom easy to maintain and enjoy.

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A to Z Reviews: “Tank,” by Francis E. Izzo

A to Z Reviews: “Tank,” by Francis E. Izzo

A to Z Reviews

One of the interesting things in this random selection of stories is how often the selected items share some unexpected and unintentional trait. The two stories that showed up for the letter I, Jack Iams’s “The Hat in the Hall” and Francis E. Izzo’s “Tank,” both reflect the only entry each author has in the Internet Science Fiction Database (although not, necessarily their only published story).

“Tank” was originally published in the March 1979 issue of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, and has since been printed in three anthologies of stories from that magazine, the reprint anthology Supertanks, and On Writing Science Fiction.

Izzo tells the story of Davis, a pinball wizard. While Davis loves pinball and trying to set the high scores on the machines in the arcade, he has also played the various video games that were making inroads into the arcades in the 1970s and found them wanting.  From Pong on up, he would play them, beat them easily, and return to his beloved pinball, sure that no video game could ever give him the thrill of playing pinball.

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A to Z Reviews: “The Hat in the Hall,” by Jack Iams

A to Z Reviews: “The Hat in the Hall,” by Jack Iams

A to Z Reviews

Jack Iams published “The Hat in the Hall” in the August 1950 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and it is an example of a story that has dated poorly. Set in the aftermath of a cocktail party in which Charles and Jane Mattson are cleaning up the mess left behind, Iams describes the couple emptying ashtrays, finding hats left behind by their guests, and, most egregious, commenting that one of their friends, Jim, is “a pretty careful driver, even when he’s stewed.”

Although the party is a success, it was also loud, which is why Charles stopped by their next door neighbor, Mrs. Oliver, to apologize the next morning. Oliver had called to complain about the noise a couple of times during the party, but it was only during his visit that Charles realizes that they were holding the party on the anniversary of her husband’s death. What surprised Charles was Mrs. Oliver’s explanation that her husband’s ghost always visited her on the anniversary of his death, but the noise from the party seemed to have kept him away.

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