I don't read much short fiction these days. I used to subscribe to the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, but I stopped to have more time for novels (and, to be honest, the stories didn't meet my needs). I still subscribe to Realms of Fantasy, though, and I try to read the online zine Strange Horizons every week. Sometimes the stories don't meet my needs either, but today I read a story called "Mayfly" that really caught my attention. Here's the link:
If you're interested, go ahead and read it before returning to this blog. I'm going to assume most of you won't read it, but I'm going to discuss it anyway, ending and all. You have been warned.
This story is about a woman from a family of human "mayflies"--the women live a full lifespan in about a week. (I don't think there are any men in the family, though the women do need a man to get pregnant--three to five days after their own births.) To compensate, they are born with memories from previous generations and seem to heal quickly. The story really grabbed me with a hooky opening and lines (as the latest May debates whether or not to consume her mother's dust--a custom in this family) like, "But my mother is not strawberry-flavored, so I opt for the shake." Ordinary activities take on new poignancy as May mails postcards, debates what to read, and goes grocery shopping, all done for the next generation. Although May seems isolated from most people, she still maintains connections with the rest of her far-flung family through the postcards. Although it's been a long time since I analyzed anything for an English class, the theme of this story, IMO, is family. Perhaps it makes a couple of points about using one's time wisely, as May first reads a "trashy" novel and then finishes Anna Karenia, a book started generations before her.
There were a couple of things about this story that didn't work for me. May's family is described as being very rich; she lives off of a trust fund. (I doubt her lifecycle would permit her to hold down a normal job.) Yet she rents an apartment instead of buying a house or condo. Perhaps it would take too many generations to complete that project; even paying a bill uses up much of May's precious time. I was also disappointed by the ending. Although it completed a cycle (from birth to birth), I wanted to hear the rest of what happens to this May. I don't know if the author (Heather Lindsley) insteads to write another story about the Mays, but if she does, I'd like to read it. I find myself fascinated by the world, so much like our own but seen through an unusual set of eyes.
I should finish with a plug for this magzine, since it subsists solely on donations. This is a pro magazine for this genre, so the authors and artists get paid. (I think the editors donate their time.) If you like this story, other stories, or the columns, please consider donating to them. There's a link to PayPal on the main page.
Turning to Locus, I see that one of my crit partners on OWW was supposed to have his first book come out this month. I didn't see it when I was at Barnes and Noble last week, but maybe I checked the wrong section. I thought it would be in Young Adult instead of Science Fiction and Fantasy; I'll have to look again. Even though it's in hardcover, I'll buy it to support him. It's called Reiffen's Choice by S.C. Butler. It's a strong story with some great description and a couple of unexpected twists; I recommend checking it out.