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Short Story Review: What is Eve?

What is Eve? by Will McIntosh appears in the April 2018 issue of Lightspeed Magazine.And before I go farther, spoiler warning: I’m probably going to spoil one reveal or another because A) I *do* want to talk about the story and B) as a person not bothered much by spoilers I sometimes don’t realize I’m spoiling despite my best intentions.

YE BE WARNED.

Now: Lightspeed puts the word count in the header of each story. I like knowing how long of a story I’m getting into, but a mere word count does not tell all. What is Eve? is advertised as being 10,160 words but I’m having a hard time believing it because I read the thing so fast it felt like 3,000.

This story is a smooth read. Smooth like a bobsled chute. It’s straightforward but not overly predictable. It doesn’t present deep complexity with tons of subplot and twisty turns, but the twists and reveals that are there are effective at building the story, advancing it, and keeping it interesting.

It’s an alien story and a first contact story — old ground for sci-fi. Old ground we keep writing on, because it’s so rich. As usual with these stories, you’ll find some themes and tropes repeated. The value, now that the 1930s and 40s are behind us, is in the particulars of the story.

This story, trust me, has some good particulars. It carries the strong morals of “don’t be a dick,” “don’t be a cynical realpolitiker,” “maybe try treating others with respect,” and “bullshitters get cut, bitch.”

There’s a nice dose of “do what feels right” and “the authorities are probably full of shit,” which as I’m a moderate cynic and long-disillusioned idealist, strikes a chord in me.

The main characters are a twelve year old scion of, basically, The Man — a kid already maneuvering for a shot at a good college with parental encouragement, and, second, a ticking time bomb of some strange creature that Lightspeed’s artist represented with what I’m pretty sure is a red snapper face looming out of a purple dress.

And I can’t swear the image isn’t the right one given the story. Like many good alien creatures, the alien is more human than she (?) looks.

But then, aren’t we all more human than we look?

…anyway, give this one a read. You won’t regret it.

 

(This post was published on my Patreon a week before you saw it here. Y’all ought to become patrons. Not only could my kids and I use every spare penny possible given that we live below the poverty line, but you get to read stuff early and get free ebook copies of stuff I publish :))

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Child Full of Stars

Child Full of Stars is the 36th ebook I have published with Smashwords.

 

It is free.

 

Go read it.  You don’t even need an e-reader or e-reader app.  You can view the thing as a webpage if you want, by choosing the ‘HTML’ option.  It’s about 2,500 words, you can finish it while having a light snack.

 

I hope you enjoy it.

 

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Rise of the Fin Folk

“Dolphins are ‘people’ Say Scientists” — A Belfast Telegraph headline today.

So, after several hundred years of eating whales and/or boiling them down for lamp oil followed by several decades of study, a few human scientists have decided that dolphins and whales are basically…

…well, basically people.  Self-aware sentient beings.  With whom we have no idea how to communicate effectively.  And, here and there, we’re still eating.

It’s a hell of a first contact story, isn’t it?  If ever someone was in need of a magic Star Trek translator, it’s us.   Makes you think about how quick and easy it might be to communicate with any aliens we might run into in the future, if in fact we run into any at all.

It might be better for the aliens if they’re not there.  They might be too delicious to talk to.

Playing With The Past

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When I started writing again—I played with writing short stories as a teen and young adult and didn’t return to it seriously until very recently, around 40—I figured I’d write a bunch of science fiction.  Real sci-fi-y sci-fi.  You know, alien empires and planet-detonating death rays, that sort of stuff.  I like reading space opera and hard science fiction, so I assumed I’d write it.

But when I sat down with the intent to write that sort of thing, I found it didn’t appeal to me as a writer.  Judging from my output, which you can see listed here on Goodreads or Smashwords, I like writing a little closer to home.  I like the near future, writing about the far-reaching effects of relatively small changes in society and technology, writing about what’s going on in the heads of people who aren’t that far removed from who we are now.

Unexpectedly, I also found that I like writing about the distant past once in a while.  I’ve read my share of Harry Turtledove‘s alternate history and speculative history, and while I thought it would be interesting to write things like that, I didn’t think it was something I’d write.  As i read his work, it struck me that there was a lot of knowledge, understanding, study, and research behind what he does.  It was a daunting thought, and I didn’t think I could do it right.

But there’s a lot of blank space in our historical thought.  There’s a ton we don’t know, and a lot of room to speculate.  The farther you go back, the less we know and the more expansive the room to speculate is.  I have always been interested in what might have been going on in the world before people began to record history, before writing was a thing that anybody did.

So every once in a while, my writing wanders back into that time before history, and I write about things like first contact with aliens happening during the tail end of the ice age in Out of the Cold, or giving a possible answer to the question of why human beings appear to have developed the skills that would have allowed civilization to arise somewhere around 50,000 years ago (according to one school of thought about the past) but did not begin to build cities until about 40,000 years later in The Always-House People.

I could devote more time and energy into analyzing why I choose to write the things I write.  But the bottom line is that I like to dream, and I hope that people enjoy reading my dreams.