“Traces of Us” by Vanessa Fogg (6471 words)
No Spoilers: Daniel and Kathy are college students when they meet and fall in love. What follows is a moving love story where the two of them, each studying different aspects of the brain and memory, grow together only for chance to threaten to break them apart. The story in many ways is about the progress of science, and about the strength of the bond between Daniel and Kathy, the way that their love sustains them, links them, through everything. The piece is also separated into two parts, one unfolding in a “now” that is far, far in the future, where two spaceships meet and converse, and one taking place in a “distant past” that is much more like contemporary America. The result is at turns heartwarming and heart-rending, and I’m not saying that it reduced me to a pile of tears (it was just raining in the exact area of my eyes, okay?), but it is a emotionally resonating piece that could have centered pain and resentment and despair but instead focuses on joy and hope and patience.
Keywords: CW- Cancer, Uploaded Consciousness, Science!, Relationships, Promises, Spaceships
Review: You know, it probably shouldn’t take me so much by surprise to come across a story that’s just...so fucking nice. Like, okay, there’s some darker elements to the story (it is a piece that in some ways is about cancer, so yeah), but the piece starts on love and then uses love to fuel it’s speculative engines all the way to the gorgeous sunrise waiting at the end of the story. Despite the stress that Daniel and Kathy experience (not just extremely competitive and results-oriented schooling and careers but also illness and family and all the other little things that life brings), this is not a story that is preoccupied with angst. Or infidelity. Or betrayal. Or even, really, loss. It’s a story that is preoccupied with love, and brains, and maybe food a wee bit—but mostly it’s about this relationship between Daniel and Kathy, and what makes it work, and what makes it last. It’s about the respect and joy they take in each other, in what makes them similar and what makes them distinct. They both manage to be encouraging and make sure to take joy in each other’s joys, and to share each other’s despairs. It helps that they’re very proactive people who see problems and work toward solutions, but don’t lose sight of each other in the drive for progress.
And okay, part of what I love about this story is that it seems so destined for sadness, but refuses to give in to that gravity. I think there is this notion in stories, and especially ones that have “literary” qualities (like, well, dealing with cancer and young romance) where the joys of the characters have to be tempered by the hammer of despair. If a couple is super happy together, then something is going to fuck it all up. Cancer and cheating and death and anger and hate all get mixed in to either prove that the love is “real.” That the characters get to be happy, but then bad things happen, and they question everything and maybe get angry, and either it all falls apart or else basically they just get to be together in heaven. And, well, this story offers up something different, one that embraces brain science fiction in order not to reinforce the importance of religion and faith in the face of disaster, but to focus on the power of humans, of science, and of two people always respecting each other. And it’s just so pure and joyous in a way that doesn’t really hurt, that doesn’t really demand that you believe in a specific afterlife in order to win the prize of immortality. And in that it’s a lively subversion of literary tropes and the kind of nihilistic idea that humans are powerless in the face of the “will of God” and must submit or be punished. And for that, I love the story.
I mean, it’s also just a genuinely nice piece, with a functioning, happy couple who love each other and, though bad things do indeed come their way, they weather and find their way back together. And it’s a triumphant, beautiful moment when their long years of work pay off, when they are able to overcome all the barriers put up to keep them from getting their happily ever after. Truly, if you need a story to help heal your soul a bit, go check this one out. It is amazing!