Welcome to the Museum of Torture by Yoko Ogawa

I think we’ve all be there, and anyone who says they haven’t is lying. Or maybe I am just a twisted individual who should get my head looked at. What I’m talking about, of course, is the break up gone so horribly bad that you begin fantasizing about all the horrible things that could (and should!) happen to your newly minted ex. Maybe it’s just hoping they look stupid in front of their friends. Maybe it’s that they lose something important. Maybe you have some revenge fantasy so elaborate you’ve settled on the exact number of times you will stab them in the face. (It’s six). Okay, maybe not the last one. Maybe.

Yoko Ogawa’s Welcome to the Museum of Torture is kind of about that. A woman’s boyfriend walks out after she can’t stop talking about the murder in her apartment complex. This sets in motion the events that carry the woman to a museum she’s never noticed before in town, a museum that occupies a creepy old house. It’s the Torture Museum, naturally, and the museum only displays instruments of torture that can be proven to have been used. Continue reading…

Power Armor: A Love Story by David Barr Kirtley

When I was a wee lass, I had a bit of an unhealthy preoccupation with the game Mech Warrior 2. This interest in giant machinery grew naturally into a pre-teen obsession with Gundam Wing and then later The Big O. I don’t think anyone was surprised by my fangirl squealing during Pacific Rim. In short, I love battle mecha. What is strange though, and even I admit this, is that it took me a really long time to come around to power armor and battle suits. The amount of resistance I threw up for the Iron Man movies was rather uncharacteristic. I continue to find myself hesitant to accept the smaller, precursors to my beloved giant warbots.

My reticence is waning, though. In large part due to stories like David Barr Kirtley’s Power Armor: A Love Story, which is about  time traveling renegade Anthony Blair, who never-ever-ever takes off his power armor. As you could probably assume from the title, there is also a woman. A woman who does not want Anthony Blair in his power armor for a variety of reasons, including the desire to be close to the man in the iron suit. But also to maybe kill him. Continue reading…

Our Relationship with Thieves by Kati Hendrey

There isn’t a person alive who doesn’t have a childhood secret. That’s my theory, anyway. As we grow older, these secrets we keep sometimes become more of a big deal, or sometimes less. But I’m pretty certain everyone has one, and they are never spoken of. I have one, though I’ll never tell.

Kati Hendrey’s Our Relationship with Thieves has that sort of mystical quality of childhood secrets and confessions. In this case, it is the confession of now-grown preteen girl to a dead man, her neighbor. And it is through this confession we learn the secrets of Martin (the dead neighbor), and the demons with which he battled. The unfolding of these stories has a sort of elegance to it. Continue reading…

Out of Copyright by Charles Sheffield

There is a school of thought that believes it is science fiction’s obligation to explore the social consequences of technology. I don’t think all science fiction fits nicely with that prescription, but it’s a good parameter. Especially for today’s story which deals with the pros and cons of cloning, especially when it comes to brilliant thinkers like Einstein, Tesla, and Oppenheimer.

Out of Copyright by Charles Sheffield was prescient for its time. The story was first published seven years before Dolly the sheep made headlines as the first cloned adult mammal. Our protagonist, Al, is on his way to the draft pick which determines which large companies will get the exclusive rights to clone famous geniuses in order to use their superior intelligence to solve problems. Its pretty telling that the problem Al’s company is currently solving is a completely ridiculous task of launching asteroids at Jupiter’s moon Io. Continue reading…

Tearjerker by Steve Berman

[dropca[]T[/dropca[]he wonderful things about anthologies is you never know when you’re going to stumble upon something wonderful. The odd thing is, I never intended to pick up Paper Cities in the first place. It just sort of fell off the shelf at my local library and, due to the weird location on it, I wasn’t sure where to reshelve it. Which is kind of peculiar since I used to work in a library. But basically I decided it was just easier to check it out rather than figure out where to drop it for the shelf clerk.

Flipping through the book, I happened to land on Steve Berman’s Tearjerker, a wonderfully dark tale of addiction and ruin. In a city scarred and quarantined after a cataclysmic event that granted special powers to only some of the inhabitants, young Gail finds herself for some old sisters who peddle in dependancy. Their big thing is the addictive tears of a little girl named Brennan. Even Gail can’t keep herself from lapping at the sad child’s cheeks. Continue reading…

No Dog Left Behind by Elliott Garber

When I was five, my family got its first dog. We were incredibly fortunate, you see, because we got the best dog in the whole world. I know everyone says that, but I’m not lying. Our sweet, intelligent golden retriever became my best friend the moment we got him, and I have loved him fiercely every day since then. I have never cried harder than when I found out he had died. He’s been gone over a decade, but I still miss him more than you could imagine.

Because of this, I don’t like dog stories. I hate them, actually. They punch me in the gut and leave me feeling angry and sad and heartbroken because I never had the chance to say goodbye to my best friend. His absence is a hole in my heart that no other animal or person has ever been able to fill. I can’t even watch that episode of Futurama (you know the one) without bawling my eyes out. I ugly-cry every time. So when Elliott Garber’s No Dog Left Behind came across my desk, I really, really, really did not want to read it. Continue reading…

Mirrorverse by Joseph Bates

Maybe it’s just me, but when I hear the world ‘multiverse,’ I instantly think of superheroes, villains, and/or Dr. Daniel Jackson trying to explain the phrase to yet another person at Stargate Command. Perhaps that’s because I’m a bit of a nerd. Maybe not just a bit.

Joseph Bates’ Mirrorverse is about the multiverse. But there are no superheroes, no villians, and certainly no Lieutenant Samantha Carter. His story actually concerns what happens when an ordinary person, dissatisfied with life, gets hold of a new technology under the guise of writing a review for a newspaper. The wonderful and bizarre device allows anybody to see what is happening throughout the multiverse, whether that is their own lives or those of famous people. Continue reading…

The Life You Save Could Be Your Own by Flannery O’Connor

Confession time. I have a deep (and possibly unhealthy) love for Flannery O’Connor. As in, for a long stretch in my early twenties, she was my go-to Halloween costume. Yes, indeed. And no, explaining you are Flannery O’Connor at college parties is not a good way to meet people. Though it is a good way to figure out who all the writers in a room are. So actually, that was probably a win for me.

When most people hear the name Flannery O’Connor, they likely think of A Good Man is Hard To Find, which is probably her most famous and most read short story. I personally think of Good Country People, which is about a door-to-door Bible salesman and a girl with one leg. But I’m actually going to talk today about The Life You Save Could Be Your Own. I think it is the most Flannery O’Connor-esque story ever written. I could be wrong, but in my mind, The Life You Save Could Be Your Own is the most undistilled, humorous version of O’Connor’s world view and the least apologetic. It’s Southern Gothic as fuck, you might say. Continue reading…

Gamma Series by C.C. Kelly

Lets talk about robots for a minute, okay? I think we can all agree that robots are awesome, even when they’re not. I mean, HAL 9000 anyone? Awesome, even if he is a little murderous and also just an ominous red lens. Science fiction has run the gambit of good robots, evil robots, and complete benign robots. Fundamentally, those stories are about how we as people interact with technology, which is there anything that could be more timely?

C.C. Kelly’s Gamma Series is also about robots. No, I mean that literally. Its central scene is a conversation about the problems with creating a robot army that won’t kill all humans indiscriminately, as played out by a scientist, the military, and a bumbling idiot senator tasked with overseeing the whole mess. Continue reading…

57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides by Sam J. Miller

Being a teenager is a tough business. I’m only six years removed from that shit show, but what a shit show it was. There are times when I wonder how any of us get out alive. Sure, being a teenager takes practice and most of us have it figured out by the time we hit 17, 18, or 19, but that’s not a guarantee. Maybe that’s why a lot of really great horror stories are written about high schoolers. Because egads, who doesn’t have a horror story from that time of their life?

Sam J. Miller’s 57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides is one of those horror stories. While its unusual structure might be off-putting for some, I think it works really well for the story. Written in list-form, with every item beginning with ‘Because,’ Miller achieves an almost hypnotic rhythm that pushes the story forward faster and faster with an unrelenting momentum.

Also, there’s a Carrie reference. Continue reading…