George R. R. Martin – The Way of Cross and Dragon (1979)

George R. R. Martin‘s short story The Way of Cross and Dragon was first published in the June 1979 issue of Omni magazine.

The Way of Cross and Dragon tells the story of a far-future inquisitor investigating a heresy which venerates Judas Iscariot. But things aren’t quite what they seem.

The story has been reprinted numerous times, I read it in the 1992 collection The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories, edited by Tom Shippey.

Have you read it? What did you make of the story? Let me know below in the comment section, or get in touch on Twitter @ShortSFreview.

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The Dead Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop

“That was wonderful wasn’t it? Such a talent.” Helena loaded the next reconstruction workshop as her students looked on. “Even if you’re not a fan of his work, I think we can all learn something about writing from Iain Banks.”

Helena looked at the display as Robert Heinlein’s face came into focus: a static image frozen between expressions.

“What works so well with the reconstructions is the advice comes straight from the authror’s writings,” Helena explained. “They aren’t mediated by those so-called rules of writing.” She made a small zig-zig gesture and Heinlein’s image blinked to life.

“There is a secret to selling good fantastical fiction,” he began. “Writing a good plot helps, of course, but it is characters – always characters – that we remember.

“The best characters are those that fulfil the wishes and fantasies of the reader. This is all you need to know.” Heinlein’s portrait gave a slow nod.

“You’re an old engineer, an old physicist – why shouldn’t the old man get the sexy schoolgirl?”

Helena gave a knowing shrug to her students, most of whom looked on with raised eyebrows.

“I like pretty girls – all men like pretty teenage girls. All men want is for a pretty teenage girl to notice them – to notice them as an object of desire – an object of raw, sexual desire.” He paused and pursed his lips as his eyes seemed to fix longingly on some distant point.

“The best characters will be the ones you fall in love with. In the Door Into Summer I wrote about a man falling in love with a ten-year-old girl. This is illegal, but it is something I can explore in fantastic fiction. The old engineer used time travel to marry the girl when she was of legal age. This is good. This is sexy.

“Of course it’s not all about young girls – it’s important, but not everything.”

Helena rolled her eyes and smiled, miming a exaltation to the heavens.

“You can dig deeper. We all love our mothers, we all want to make love to our mothers – our mothers are sexy. In my novel Time Enough for Love, Lazarus Long went back in time to have sex with his mother. This is very sexy.

“So you see, you can take a trope of fantastical fiction such as time travel and use it to fulfil your reader’s deepest desires: to be with young girls, to be with their mothers. This is what time travel is for. It is very sexy.

The portrait of Heinlein licked his lips. “Let’s talk about how much fun rape can be. If the woman makes an effort to enjoy it then–.”

Helena gestured frantically toward the display. “I’m so sorry,” she said, turning to her students as her cheeks flushed, “this one’s clearly just a pervert.”

Heinlein’s portrait froze between expressions.

This text is copyright 2016 by Jon Cronshaw, released under a BY-NC-ND Creative Commons Licence.

Sofia Samatar -How to Get Back to the Forest (2014)

Sofia Samatar‘s short story How to Get Back to the Forest was published in the March 2014 issue of Lightspeed magazine.

How to Get Back to the Forest tells the story of a near future dystopia where children’s lives are mapped-out by the government and their emotions are regulated by implants.

Have you read this story? Get in touch and tell me what you think on Twitter @shortsfreview or by leaving a comment below.

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John P. Murphy – Claudius Rex (2014)

John P. Murphy‘s novella Claudius Rex was first published in the Alembical 3: A Distillation of Three Novellas collection from 2014.

Claudius Rex tells the story of a private investigator who stumbles across a corpse while attending a job interview and investigates the crime with help of an advanced AI implant.

Have you read this story? What did you think? You can let me know on Twitter @shortsfreview, or you can leave a comment below.

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Connie Willis – Ado (1988)

Connie Willis‘s short story Ado was first published in the January 1988 issue of Asimov’s magazine. I read this in Willis’s 1993 short story collection Impossible Things.

Ado is a satirical cautionary tale about an English Literature teacher attempting to teach Shakespeare in a world where sensitivity to offence is taken to its logical extreme.

The themes of this story are so closely tied to its narrative that I found it impossible to talk about it any meaningful way without being spoilterific. So if you haven’t read the story, I’d recommend reading it prior to listening to the review.

Have you read it? What did you think? Let me know.

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Transmission

TRANSMISSION 2421-11-24-013-US32B

I’m going to die. RIght. Okay. This is my last message. <static> Something has breached the capsule. Fuck. There’s a lot of junk out there. Oxygen levels are <static> minutes.

I know I’m too far away <static> to be picked up in time and by the time this message gets to Earth, I’ll already <static>.

Control: please relay this to my wife and son. Gloria, I love you <static> our wedding day – you were so beautiful. I wish <static>. The truth is we can’t look back – regrets will only destroy you and you’ve got nothing to be sorry for. I forgive <static>

Josh, I need you to be strong for your mother – you’re going to be the man of the house now, which means <static>. You can do it. I know you can. I love you.

I know there’s no God. The universe is more vast and wonderful than we could ever begin to comprehend. This doesn’t make me sad, doesn’t <static> it means there’s more to appreciate and find <static> would only undermine that. <static>

I’ve been trained for this. I’m prepared, I’m at peace with <static> I won’t be in pain, it will be like falling asleep. I won’t suffer, you need to know that.

I’m just trying to remember what it was my father said before he died. He said it’s not about <static> and that’s always struck me as getting right to the truth of all this.

<static> for over a month now and this is the first time I’ve really taken in the view. It really is beautiful. <static> that the final thing I’ll see is. Wow. <static>

Love is. Love is so important – it’s the most important. I’d say I’m going to miss you, but we know <static> happen. I know this is cold, but it’s true.

Didn’t someone once say we’re still alive through the people whose lives we’ve touched? The smiles and <static>. It sounds corny, but there’s some truth in that. At least I hope there’s truth <static> so please try and hold onto that, try and keep that in your heart.

Fuck. You can do this. You can do <static> do this.

Josh, please. Gloria.

Oh man, that was. Starting to feel a bit.

That <static>

I <static> definitely running out.

Oh God. Please Lord. Forgive <static>

Thank you. Thank

TRANSMISSION ENDS

 

This text is copyright 2016 by Jon Cronshaw, released under a BY-NC-ND Creative Commons Licence.  

 

Hugh Howey – Deep Blood Kettle (2013)

Hugh Howey‘s short story Deep Blood Kettle was published by Lightspeed Magazine in April 2013 and reprinted in the anthology Wastelands 2, edited by John Joseph Adams.

Deep Blood Kettle is a first contact story where the aliens give Earth an ultimatum.

Have you read this story? What did you think? Tell me about your favourite short science fiction stories on Twitter @ShortSFReview.

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