8 thoughts on ““Please Undo This Hurt,” by Seth Dickinson”

  1. The whole length of the story, I was going, "OK, this is really good, it’s really well-done, it’s incredibly timely. But… there’s no way he’s going to manage to wrap this up in a way that actually *addresses* all this, is there?" I figured it’d go to some wistful "Oh no, they gave up," or some mounting "argg argg everything is horrible and awful" ending.

    But no. Gut-punch and recursive conundrums, a double whammy. Wow.

  2. I have to say I don’t usually like cosmic horror. Very hard for it to be anything but trite. This one, though, wow. It’s very subtle; the way Dominga describes her perceptions of the world allow the reader to sense along with her the cold presence of "the truth behind the indifferent cloth of stars". The things that horrify her are just the bleakest interpretation put on ordinary mundane events. Even when she speaks of "a secret you might hear in the wind that passes between the libraries of jade teeth that wait in an empty city burnt stark by a high blue star that never leaves the zenith, a secret that tumbles down on you like a fall of maggots from a white place behind everything, where a pale immensity circles on the silent wind" — these images are rooted in experiences she has had, and since the reader has followed along with her, we know exactly why these images have a grip on her.

    Dominga says, "You’re going to wonder how I came up with the rest of this, and all I can offer is fatigue, terror, maggots in my air vents, the memory of broken skulls on sidewalks: a kind of stress psychosis. Or the other explanation, of course." Yes, in theory all the horror could just be her interpretation and imagination, even those thoroughly bizarre "stress screening" people. But even if so I think it still counts as a genre story because she’d be using cosmic horror tropes to think through her ideas about life: stories about the use of genre are genre I think.

    This story is great for three reasons: one is the gripping telling that had me anguished all over again the second time I read it; another is the fragile hopefulness of the ending that doesn’t dismiss the troubling thoughts that the story raised before that, but only puts them in a perspective that can be lived with; the third is the memorable debate in it that I predict will stick with me for a long time.

  3. I first got to this story from a recommendation by Charles Payseur, who was talking about his idea of "Millennial fiction": http://quicksipreviews.blogspot.co.il/2015/11/quick-thoughts-millennial-fiction.html .

    I think his observations are apt, and this is a topic that’s very immediate and central to, well, millennials, or to the current zeitgeist.

    In the comments he mentions Sam J. Miller’s "To Die Dancing" as a story that also addresses this theme, and complicates it:

    "It is amazing and completely complicates the wanting to opt out vs. having to work from within and surviving vs. being moral. Definitely deserves a part in this conversation."

    — we just read a different story by Sam J. Miller, and I’m trying to keep a good variety, but I’m definitely putting "To Die Dancing" on my TBR list, because I’m interested in following up on this. ( Levana Taylor, I think you mentioned that story in comparison to "Calved", right? ) [[SHARE]]

    1. Thanks to the link to that very thought-provoking essay. I’m going to defer talking about it until I’ve read all the stories it references.

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