“The Person You Are Trying To Reach Is Not Available,” by Andrea Chapela

“The Person You Are Trying To Reach Is Not Available,” by Andrea Chapela.
Translated from Spanish by Andrea Chapela. Published in Samovar, June 2017. Short story.

Strange Horizons have published their second issue of Samovar, the magazine celebrating translated speculative fiction from around the world. Like last post, I’ve leaped on a brand new story which looks intriguing, so no outside reviews yet – we’ve got a clean slate for this one.

What did you think? Read the story, and join the discussion in the comments!

5 thoughts on ““The Person You Are Trying To Reach Is Not Available,” by Andrea Chapela”

  1. Really nice!

    I feel like the story of “stubborn person stands staunchly against technology which is world-changing but dehumanizing” is fairly familiar. But, this one worked well for me, because it felt so… intimate.

    I think, maybe, that what this story does differently is that it isn’t about the technology. “Will old person accept or reject the technology” isn’t the part that interested me in the piece. Instead, it feels like a character portrait. So many things about the mother feel familiar, endearing. I don’t really care if the mother’s death is suicide or dignity; instead, I’m enjoying the elderly woman who can’t figure out how this new-fangled phone is supposed to work.

  2. Charles Payseur wrote a review of the story — and it looks we each enjoyed a different half of this story… 😛

    And I love how the piece seems to be largely about distance, technology allowing people to be connected but putting up these barriers between them. And these barriers come tumbling down in the face of Magdelena’s condition, her approaching death. Ana learns a bit of what it was like in the past to care for a sick relative, to watch them wither and expire. And in confronting that Ana has to confront the specter of death, which is something else that people in this future are insulated from, seeing life and death from a distance, as something almost impersonal.

    1. Well, I guess I had a different reaction than Ziv and Charles Payseur. To me, both Ani and her mother felt like pretty generic characters, and therefore the intimacy of the story was largely missing. But toward the end of the story I did begin to sympathize with Magdalena’s feeling of isolation and her feeling that she had already outlived her life.

      There really is a point in nearly everyone’s life when they reach their limit for absorbing new things and stop regarding discovery as adventure– if medical technology could prevent our brains from aging past the developmental stage they were at (say) age 25, would that still happen? Anyway, I think that medical technology hasn’t progressed that far in the story.

      I wonder if Magdalena’s wish not to be kept alive is really due to aversion to artificial body parts or just general weariness. The medical technology probably just seems like the last straw in an offputtingly strange and alienating world.

      It was nice to see a bit of development in Ana’s thinking too, her realizing that the call room wasn’t actually bringing her nearly as close to her mother as physical proximity would have done, and her reflections on the physical reality of death. But for me, this all came a bit too late to salvage the boring first half of the story.

      1. That’s a really interesting observation. I find myself connecting it to my interpretation — what if it’s not a “this technology goes too far in isolating us from our shared humanity” story, but a “I don’t have energy for this new technology; how do I even see photographs of the grandkids on this damned thing” story instead?

      2. I think the part that really grabbed me was noticing how “Mom likes callrooms to simulate real spaces.” That’s a personality indicator, sure. I feel like it’s also a touching detail. It’s not a rejection of new technology, but… it’s both a nostalgic use of it, and a limiting acceptance… and I found it kind of endearing.

        That’s what got me off on the right foot to begin with. I also really liked the friendly neighbor character, doña Carmela. I like the “finally” — “Finally, I try doña Carmela.” It’s low-key, but feels like it’s got a lot of weight and familiarity behind it.

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