This is another suggestion from the #ShortFictionSunday hashtag. I always enjoy bringing up stories from The New Yorker – they’re often interesting (they need to be interesting enough to get into The New Yorker!), but since they’re not in a genre magazine, they can seem to be left out of the more “usual” circles and buzz.
What do you think? Read the story, and join the discussion in the comments!
He depressed many keys that day, an untallied number but one no doubt approximately equaling that of any other day. We cannot know what was in his thoughts, but let us speculate: that he was aware, with that awareness which had been acute when he had first started the job but had dimmed progressively with each day he worked, that every key he depressed affected in some small way the movement of objects scattered throughout the world, throughout the solar system, and in some rare cases even elsewhere, further still. During his training, as he learned about the relevance of the speed of light to the keys he must depress, he had tried to engage his supervisor in a kind of low-level philosophical talk about other implications of that universal constant, but the supervisor had been uninterested or uncomprehending — at any rate had not responded in kind. Before long, it appears, Hodos himself grew similarly uninterested.
Something that I find particularly interesting is how this story uses belief. It’s something of a trope in horror that if someone has a completely legitimate concern (noises, silhouettes in the night, flashes of seeing…something) everyone around them will discount it and ignore it. That these other people will tell the aggrieved that they’re just imagining things. And it’s no mistake that often the person being disbelieved is a woman or a child. Horror tends to play with the feeling of helplessness, and this story certainly checks its share of boxes when it comes to horror tropes. This is far from a complaint, though. Indeed, I love how the story complicates the tropes, deepens this concept of belief, how it can be weaponized against a person, and also how it can be freeing and healing.
This story was suggested for discussion by Chinelo Onwualu, who writes:
This story is a powerful meditation on disconnection and disenfranchisement as a father and son struggle with finding a way to understand each other while working to police a community that’s not theirs. It is layered and complex and incredibly timely for these troubled times we live in.
I loved the story because it showed such a high level of craft, deftly weaving together a lot of delicate threads to create something profoundly moving. I think that any discussions on it shouldn’t overlook what it has to say about race, class and disenfranchisement in today’s America. What really does happen to a dream deferred?
Another one from Clarkesworld: “And Then, One Day, the Air was Full of Voices,” by Margaret Ronald.
Recommended by BestSF, who writes:
“Because of it’s structure, mix of human and societal analysis, and an altogether different type of First Contact, I’m putting this forward for consideration for the Best SF Short Story Award 2016.”