Short story: “Requiem in the Key of Prose”

by look i have opinions

“Requiem in the Key of Prose,” by Jake Kerr

Appeared in Lightspeed Magazine in July 2012 (read and listen here)

2,277 words, according to Lightspeed

This story irritates me for much the same reason “Mono No Aware” did. I’m not absolutely opposed to stories about lone geniuses going on suicidal missions and saving the day. I’ll go further than that: I am unabashedly pro-heroic-genius-solo-death-mission stories. I just want them to convince me. I want to read No one else can do what I do and believe itI want to read There’s no other way without rolling my eyes. I rolled my eyes at the first mention of Violet touching her belly, too.

(Side note: Do self-indulgent love-conquers-all stories get published and awarded prizes with the same regularity as self-indulgent lone-hero stories? I don’t think they do. I certainly hope not. I can’t picture Lightspeed running a story from the Twilight franchise, even if it were well written. Perhaps this says something about how differently we value feminine and masculine fantasies.)

“Requiem” at least has a consistent character-based explanation for Adam’s unique abilities, and makes some effort to emphasize how ad hoc the construction of the fan was, but it’s not enough. To be honest, I was barely aware of the whole breathing apparatus for most of the story. There’s no sense of post-apocalyptic life, no mention of the drastic social and environmental changes that must have occurred.

If I could bring myself to care more about either Adam or Violet, I think that would go a long way. They both seem likable but nothing special. Everything about the “Flashback” section is unremarkable, except for the fact that the dome contains grassy areas where couples can lie and gaze at the moon, which strikes me as an impractical use of land.

The unusual style is sort of interesting, but it comes off as a cheap gimmick. It doesn’t have much emotional resonance (despite clever bits like “Present Perfect Tense”) and has nothing to do with the plot (none of the characters seem to be writers, or interested in storytelling techniques). I’ll admit that it’s surprisingly clear and easy to understand. That’s all I can say for it.