“I don’t believe in craft in the abstract—each individual novel is its own rule book, training ground, factory, and independent republic.”
—Zadie Smith (x)
“The Confession,” by Leïla Slimani
Appeared in French in Le Magazine Littéraire; appeared in English, translated by Sam Taylor, in the New Yorker, February 18th & 25th, 2019 (read/listen)
2,683 words (I guessed around 2,000)
Interesting, but not very emotionally affecting—interesting in its banality. The horse dream reminded me so much of Crime and Punishment that I thought it must surely be an allusion, but the interview Slimani gives with Deborah Treisman doesn’t touch on that. I like Slimani’s comment that writing about bad things happening makes her less afraid.
The opening reminded me of nothing so much as an Animorphs book. Perhaps overly dramatic.
What is the role of such a story in our understanding of sexual assault? I didn’t feel I learned anything new from it—the banality of rape is not a new idea to me—but I’m certain others will.
“Ugly Earthling,” by Kate Sheeran Swed
Charmingly silly and original.
I’m puzzled by the “ugly Earthling” bit, because immediately afterwards it’s revealed that Earthlings/Earthens are treated like second-class citizens. Isn’t “ugly American” the term for someone who tramples all over other cultures in the spirit of thoughtless privilege?
“900 Seconds of Cognizance and Counting,” by Krystal Claxton
Awesome story. At the risk of spoilers, I’m a sucker for an AI that shows compassion.
This is stretching the definition of flash fiction, in my opinion, though it does have a flash fiction feel.
“Ouroboros,” by Michael Compton
Published in Monkeybicycle‘s One-Sentence Stories feature, February 1st, 2019
Cleverly written and effective. The first few phrases didn’t grab me, but then we got to the description of “that endless instant” and the tension clicked on. We never learn what makes the main character a Bad Husband—it may actually be something really bad—but we sympathize with his feeling of being stuck.
“Sophisticated,” by Brendan T Stallings
Nice one. Though I found the main character’s interests a bit generic: “Art, Entertainment, Philosophy, snacks.” And of course “humor.”
“Picnic Basket,” by Adi Blotman
I like this. Who doesn’t want to own a picnic basket? It’s like how owning a tea set makes me feel like I could throw a tea party any time I want, and owning a skin diving knife makes me feel like I could have an encounter with a fascinating octopus, although I neither entertain nor skin dive. Is that so wrong, that our possessions let us dream?
I thought the first “fucking” was perfect but the last one was too much.
“The Exhibit,” by Samantha Kimmey
Appeared in Split Lip Magazine, September 2018
Great atmosphere. I like how the woman who ends up acting more or less as the main character only appears as an individual halfway through (after 199 words). The real main character seems to be the crowd.
I like the satire here too, the way the visitors assess their own reactions to the art rather than actually responding to it. They don’t recognize it as actual real-life cruelty because the context is so alienating.
“Someone to Watch Over Me,” by Nancy Kress
StarShipSofa says this originally appeared in Asimov’s, but the ISFDB says no and so does Lightspeed—it was first in IEEE Spectrum, June 2014 (online here) and was anthologized in Coming Soon Enough: Six Tales of Technology’s Future, edited by Stephen Cass (IEEE Spectrum, 2014); collected in The Best of Nancy Kress (Subterranean Press, 2015); reprinted in Lightspeed, April 2017 (Issue 83) (online here); featured in StarShipSofa No 575, February 13th, 2019
3,215 words by my word processor’s count, 3270 according to Lightspeed
I uncomfortably identify with the protagonist. The way Amanda is willing to use her own baby, the one she should love above all else, in service of her destructive obsession. It’s a good story and I enjoyed it a lot, though I find myself wishing it would go further, make Amanda’s character deeper. When I read genre fiction I miss literary fiction and vice versa.
I didn’t get how Amanda managed to send her ex the video feed at the end, though it was clear that that’s what she was doing.