“1957,” by Stephen Cox

“1957,” by Stephen Cox. Short Story, Apex Magazine, May 3 2016.

Charles Payseur recommended this one highly, writing:
>”1957″ by @StephenWhq is AH-MAZING! So much going on and layers and dark and so good.

I like Apex and I liked the beginning, so this looks good πŸ™‚

Read the story:


3 thoughts on ““1957,” by Stephen Cox”

  1. It is commonly alleged that there’s something a bit pathetic about someone who thinks high school was the best days of their life… it may not be clear when the line between pathetic and creepy is crossed, but it sure is clear when that line has been left far behind.


    What we have in this story is a "brainbox" named Parslow who once had an unrequited crush on his schoolmate Danny Henderson. Parslow’s crush morphed into an obsession that lasted even as he became a top-secret researcher and Henderson got married. The research created time-in-a-bottle: a loop of time, cut off from the outside world, that could be rewritten by its creator every time it repeated. Parslow set out to edit his schooldays into a version where he would win Henderson. In truth they had attended a co-ed state grammar school, but that was changed to Parslow’s idea of a public school, where things would be, as he thinks, perfect; and there would be no girls to compete with him. This construction is composed of the most ciicheed ideas about public schools possible, but I guess that makes sense for something created out of Parslow’s imagination. (However, I don’t know why Henderson thinks in cliches in his inner monologues — that can’t be due to direct mind control, because then Parslow would just take a shortcut and make Henderson love him.) Every time the result isn’t quite what he wants (that is, some facsimile of love between him and Henderson) he makes an adjustment and runs the loop again.

    The title and the opening line allude, of course, to "1984". I suppose the connection is messing with minds and rewriting the knowledge of the past so that "we have always been at war with Eastasia", but going beyond this to actually rewrite history. Parslow says his project has the potential to be a weapon more fearsome than the atom bomb, which I suppose it could be; true, this is a small-scale loop containing only Parslow and Henderson, but Parslow says it’s "massively scalable", so he thinks it could be used on an entire population.

    (One thing that isn’t made clear is how Rachael is able to interfere in the time-loop, writing herself and other people into it. The fact that Danny stutters when she’s there might be meant as an indication that whatever she’s doing is making it work in a glitchy fashion. Anyhow, if interference is possible, it’s not an invincible weapon.)

  2. The author, in that interview, gives a hint why he’s not worried about falling in with the very old stereotype of predatory gay guys who are out to get straight guys: "I write lots of QUILTBAG characters everywhere on the heroine-to-villainess spectrum; people need good role models but let’s not pretend everyone is a saint either." It is a bit of a pity that the setup here falls in with that old idea so exactly, but so what.

    It could seem trivializing to have a story about "the morality of power" reduced to the inventor using his invention for very personal, creepy sexual purposes; but there’s the scalability thing, where this small-scale abuse could hint at possibilities for political (etc.) use.

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