Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Quick Sips - Terraform January 2015

Because this releases one story a week without anything else, I figured I would just wait to review all the Terraform stories at once. It means I have to wait a bit to put out the review, but I don't want to make a habit of putting out reviews with only one story in them. Those are for special occasions! So yeah...


"How A Dream Machine Works, Exactly" by Mark Von Schlegell (2582 words)

A surreal experience, as might suit a story that is about dreams. In it a man finds a machine that can turn his dreams into reality. At least, that's what he hopes. Things don't go exactly as he thought, though, and instead of really working to make his dreams real, he instead only is able to make another, similar machine, owned and operated by a childhood acquaintance, stronger. In the end he gives up trying to change the world with his machine, cedes the demands to her, and retires, only to find a new sort of machine to transform dreams into reality. The whole thing is a little messy, a little confusing, but it's still interesting in a dreamy sort of way. The end might be a little cheesy, but it's not bad.

"CES 2067" by Sam Biddle (1485 words)

Positing a world where technology is worshipped for technology's sake and not for really anything that it can do for people, this story was fun but didn't really hit that hard for me. At it's core it's about manufacturing desire, desire for technology, for the future, only it's a future that doesn't really exist, that doesn't really do anything for anyone. And that's an interesting idea, and it makes for a rather funny set of observations as the main character agonizes his choice in rectangle and imagines having a better one. I just always get a little touchy about these kinds of stories because sometimes they seem like "darn kids" stories. Not that this one is. I think what's being criticized is consumerism and the selling of an idea of "coolness" and not that it's trying to say that smart phones are stupid. And maybe because I don't follow the latest things when it comes to handheld devices I'm just missing something, that if I had ever gone to a CES I would like this more. I still liked it, but it didn't connect with me as much as I would have liked.

"Re-Homing" by Debbie Urbanski (1454 words)

Many of the Terraform stories revolve around some central What if...? question, and this one asks one in a way that is interesting, funny, and rather dark. What if raising children was like raising pets? It's both commentary on how we as a society view children as possessions and a commentary on how we treat our pets. Because even for pets, getting bored and trading them in or getting rid of them is terribly shallow. And people looking to adopt pets sometimes do so for some messed up reasons and with terrible results. But I think the more interesting part is to look at it as commenting on how we view children as possessions instead of people. And many do. It's part of the parent-child relationship that often bothers me, that many parents think they own their kids and that's just rather disturbing and leads to some horrible things. That this story manages to make that premise funny and sad and all the things is a testament to how good it is. Well handled and just the right length. Superb!

"Rockall" by Andrew David Thaler (2123 words)

A story about a colony that lives on a great boat out on the ocean, this one is a bit strange, focusing on Nails, the senior diver for the colony who must check to make sure the boat is anchored securely to a rock deep underwater. The routine of diving is taking it's toll, though, and Nails does not seem in a good way, haunted by giant squid that might or might not exist. This is a story I wish was longer, because as it is I feel like I'm missing some of the conflict. Nails seems to be rather bored, rather apathetic, but I didn't get a great feel for the colony, for the boat, or for what happened in the rest of the world. It's an interesting idea, and I like the perhaps-hallucinated squid, but I was left a bit wanting, a little bit confused at the end. I wanted to follow Nails, to see where he was going, but for what it is the story is fun and has some nice moments.

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