Normally I don't think of flash fiction as anything under 3,000 words, but that's how Fantastic Stories of the Imagination defines the form and so here are two more "flash" fiction pieces. Really I'm just teasing (though really, the first story is not flash), because both stories are once again good and both science fictional looks at the future, at two young women who are trying to figure out their place in the scheme of things. The stories offer two different views of the future, two different dilemmas, but they both share some common things. Mostly, they're about being open to change, about not being stuck with tunnel vision. One story shows the protagonist finding this out, the other shows the protagonist with maybe some more learning to do. But both are interesting and I guess I should just get to it!
"Little Fox" by Amy Griswold (3052 words)
A lonely and rather lovely story about a girl and her clone and the pressures of not being free. Bella wakes up in her clone's bed on the morning she was supposed to be spending her first day at college. Fox, her clone, is no where to be seen, and seems to have managed to switch places with her, something that's quite illegal. Bella views Fox as a sister, though, despite Fox's status as second class, as not truly free. She's used for chores and labor, to be a servant forever and nothing more. And while Fox still cares for Bella, she needs to try and be free and this is how she does it. Only it's not a story about how terrifying it can be to be switched. It's not about Bella being trapped forever in Fox's place, because there are ways to tell them apart. But Bella doesn't want Fox punished, and when they finally talk and Fox tells her about leaving, Bella tries to help her, and then confronts her mother with the news. The story does end with the idea that the clone/person argument is already compromised. Because Bella's sister, Marissa, is actually a clone, replaced when Marissa got very sick as a child and apparently died. I did like that the story brought up the question of what the differences are between clone and original. Obviously if one was actually switched then there is no difference. They broke their own rules when it suited them, so Fox running away is just, is right, and Bella (to her credit) does see that in the end, does want Fox to be free and clear. It's a nice story, using a somewhat familiar plot (clones and switching) and grounding it with very good character work and some inventive tweaks. Indeed.
"This Side of Time" by Sarah Grey (1012 words)
Well this is a touching and rather interesting story about a woman with a machine that lets her see into the future, into possible futures. A fifteen year old, she uses the machine to vet future husbands, future men that might share her life. She has a great many people to chose from, but the story focuses on one, on a would-be singer/songwriter/musician who never really makes it big and who starts to feel inadequate in the shadow of the woman's success. She goes as far into the future of their relationship as she can to see that he is struggling with not going anywhere, that he will leave his band and enter into finance in an attempt to gain back some semblance of meaning in his life. And this fact, this struggle, makes him unappealing and so he gets disqualified from the running. It's a strange kind of story, a story that might be a bit about letting life happen and not planning it out so much but that might also be about recognizing that the pain and angst of relationships are not always necessary. After all, I can't exactly condemn this girl for making her choice, for not wanting to compromise. Seeing the universe as a poem is not a terrible way of viewing the universe, especially with a time machine. Especially when most people are always told they have to deal with a messy universe, one that's disappointing and bleak. The story seems to imply a little that she might just be setting herself up for failure, but she's just fifteen and does have a life in front of her. Even with trying to control it precisely, things might just happen to surprise her. I rather think that maybe she's not wrong about the universe being a poem, but maybe it's less a sonnet and more free verse than she wants to think at this point in her life. In any event, the story has a nice humor and an interesting premise and I did quite enjoy it. Well worth a look.