Monday, September 25, 2006

Mayfly and Other Musings

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.


The Dear NYEr said...

You know Sandra, I can't believe I am going to admit to this but, the truth is I am terrified of horror flicks. I am not in any way saying SciFi, is horror. However, sometimes it has undertones of horror and freaks me out :) HELP!!!! Can you believe I still can't watch reruns of "The Twilight Zone" "Talking Tina" scarred me for life.

Sandra said...

Horror and SF are two different genres, IMO. I don't like horror either; World News Tonight can be scary enough at times. Remember the movie "The Day After" about nuclear war, back in the early 80s? Even the ads for it traumatized me; I couldn't watch it. But even though that line I quoted might seem gruesome, it works in context, and the story itself isn't scary. It may, however, be different from what you're used to reading. Science fiction can take you to new places and cultures with new attitudes, so I think you have to learn how to read it with an open mind.

What type of stories do you like to read, BTW?

The Dear NYer said...

I love to read, I wish I had more time too. Right now I am finishing up "A Life" Elia Kazan's autobiography. Most recently I've read books about Greek-Americans. I tend to be drawn to Non-fiction, human interest stories, history, and stories about travel and other cultures.

My real passion is movies. I LOVE movies. Indy films, foreign films. My brother-in-law bought me John Cassavettes's boxed set. I was in heaven.

P.S. Russ calls me a movie snob ;)

Russ said...

She IS a movie snob, but that just means she's passionate about the art forms that interest her (and, which reminds me, I haven't forgotten that question - I'll get to it, I'll get to it...)

Now. Sandra, I'm going to take issue with your strict delineation between sci fi and horror. I don't think they can be so easily separated. Sci fi is about the unknown, about discovery, about mystery. These can be wonderous and enlightening, or they can be terrifying. Think E.T. vs. Alien. Which makes sense, by the way, because horror is about the unknown too - something lurking out of sight, a mysterious hidden threat - that sort of thing. The genres cover the same themes, so it makes sense that the delineation between the two frequently blurs.

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