SFF Short Story Project Update #1

So one of my reading resolutions for 2018 was to read more SFF short stories, with the goal of finding a total of three stories that I really love and want to advocate for. As of this writing, I have read nine SFF short stories, which already is way more than I have ever read in a previous year. I will assume that you are duly impressed.

Six of these (shut up) have come from the Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017, edited by Charles Yu. I have no apologies to make. I didn’t say I’d be reading all brand-new short SFF this year, I just said I’d be reading short SFF. I understand the argument that I’m short-cutting my way to some of the highest-quality work, but I decline it because everyone’s tastes are different and what Charles Yu considers to be the best isn’t necessarily the same as what I consider to be the best.

Now that I have finished dismantling an argument you didn’t make on account of I have a guilty conscience about the methods I have chosen to pursue a stakes-free goal of my own devising, let’s get onward to the first SFF short story I loved in 2017: Debbie Urbanski’s “When They Came to Us.” First published in The Sun, it tells fragments of the story of a town where a group of aliens called “blues” are resettled after their ship crashes on Earth.

I’m sorry to make a comparison to Shirley Jackson so early in the year, but I think this story merits it. The strange, small-town details like Dana Fisher and Jeff Campbell going ahead with their wedding “even though nobody thought they should get married at a time like this.” The weird, mundane details about the blues’ presence in town that contribute to a growing sense of unease and impending doom.

In a story that ends with SORRY FOR SPOILERS BUT I ALREADY SAID SHIRLEY JACKSON’S NAME SO IT’S NOT LIKE YOU DIDN’T SEE IT COMING the townspeople slaughtering the aliens, it would have been really easy for Urbanski to overplay her hand with the scene-setting details. Instead, the format of small vignettes with strange little through-lines from previous vignettes and weird, understated headlines for each section gives the whole thing a feeling of humorous detachment that plays beautifully against the creepiness that underpins the whole story.

Did y’all read this story? Did you like it? (Say yes!)

This has been the first installment of the SFF Short Story Project. I did not necessarily intend to write posts about this resolution, but I couldn’t think of another way to track my progress on this resolution, and goals assessment is what I’m all about. So. Read any good science fiction or fantasy short stories lately?

New Year’s Resolutions: A Manifesto

I have seen many lists of New Year’s Resolutions around the blogosphere this month. People are setting admirable goals for themselves, and you would think that I, having had a highly successful round of New Year’s Resolutions from 2010, would be raring to set still more awesome goals for myself this year. In fact the exact opposite is true. All through January of 2011 I have shied away from making Resolutions, even in my brain, because I think that in general they are unrealistic and ultimately a self-esteem suck. Having goals is one thing, but New Year’s Resolutions tends to be something slightly more idealistic, and thus more fraught with the potential for failure.

Well, dear ones, I have found an alternative. I have opened up a glorious future for us all. Your lives will never be the same. Here is what I’m proposing: Retroactive New Year’s Resolutions. This is the cure for all resolutions-related depression. I will explain.

I have a purple blanket, which my daddy made for me and which I have had since I can remember. As I was tucking myself into bed a week ago, I tugged too hard on the frilly border of the blanket and ripped a long strip of the border away from the lining. This weekend I sewed it back together again, and as I was sewing it (by hand, which took two episodes of The Good Wife) I felt really proud of myself for sewing it so successfully. (I don’t sew.) I kind of wished I had made a New Year’s Resolution to sew something together that wasn’t buttons. So I decided, I did make that New Year’s Resolution. That happened. And now I have accomplished it. Yay me! No wonder I feel so proud: I accomplished a resolution!

This is how New Year’s Resolutions should work. Every time you accomplish something difficult that you’re proud of, you should make a retroactive New Year’s Resolution to do that thing. I feel so happy right now, after having sewed my blanket back together. If you did a scan of my brain at this moment, I bet you would find it’s being flooded with serotonin and dopamine. I bet you would find my brain responding like it would respond to delicious food and revenge. Bloggy friends, I want this feeling for you. Join me in making retroactive New Year’s Resolutions the norm. It’s a foolproof recipe for a reward chemical cocktail of awesome.

I’ll start. Jenny’s 2011 New Year’s Resolutions:

1. Sew something together that isn’t buttons.
2. Fall in love with a book translated from Spanish.
3. Modify several existing recipes to create one amalgam recipe, and then use that amalgam recipe to cook an official food of Louisiana and have it come out awesome.
4. Read more translated modern poetry and find a translated modern poet to love.

Done and done and done and done! Go Jenny! 2011 is shaping up to be a huge success, and I feel awesome about myself! These aren’t, of course, my only New Year’s Resolutions. There will be more. I’ll find out what they are as the year goes on, and when I do, I will be sure to let you know. Anyone want to join me? Have you accomplished anything that can be retroactively made into a resolution? Alternately, do you think my plan is insane and self-serving? Have any refinements to suggest?