Short story: “Spar”

by look i have opinions

“Spar,” by Kij Johnson

2,153 words

Appeared in October 2009 in issue 37 of Clarkesworld here (get an ebook subscription here); won the 2009 Nebula, nominated for a 2010 Hugo, a finalist for a 2010 Locust

The author describes this story as being about breakdowns in communication. I didn’t read it that way at first, but on consideration, it seems like the best possible way to interpret the counterpoint between the woman’s old boyfriend and her current circumstances. The picnic scene would have no relevance except that it shows how badly the human couple fails to communicate. I guess the sexual nature of their relationship is a red herring here, since the parallel between the two “relationships” isn’t the sex but the pointlessness of the sex.

I like stories that have a relentless, obsessive, almost claustrophobic focus. I think only short stories can do this really well.