Thursday, August 22, 2019

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #54

Art by Joey Jordan
Two stories round out Diabolical Plots' August offerings, with two rather twisted takes on familiar tropes in SFF. The first takes a look not only at inspiration but at corporate culture as well, revealing a novel way of looking at innovation and greed. The second takes aim at zombies, tying them explicitly to colonization and then complicating them further with a deconstruction of belonging, identity, and isolation. Both works definitely work with some grim themes, though they often find strange moments of beauty tucked into the gritty realities they expose. Before I give too much away, though, let's get to the reviews!


“The Inspiration Machine” by K.S. Dearsley (951 words)

No Spoilers: Hardy works for a large corporation that specializes in making the Next Bing Thing. His job depends on coming up with ideas that can be marketed aggressively, and he has a brilliant idea! For about a second, at least, until a coffee spill knocks it right back out of his head. Which, in turn, becomes its own sort of inspiration...for a machine that will allow people to go back to the eureka moment and follow through on their brilliant ideas. Too bad there’s a catch. The piece is short and fun, capturing the way that capitalism and corporate culture push results over what’s actually good for anyone. It’s fun, a sharp critique with a nice amount of humor mixed with just a touch of too-real horror.
Keywords: Inspiration, Inventions, Marketing, Placebo, Corporations
Review: I like the way the story sets up Hardy to basically get caught in this loops where he has an idea and then loses it, so that he’s forever chasing after it by trying to invent a machine that will let him retrieve it. Only instead of succeeding in creating something that would allow him to actually figure out how to harness inspiration, he creates instead a lie. A lie that his boss uses to create something popular, a kind of placebo that allows people to believe that they are finding inspiration, and so they are. Which in some ways does work, as long as people believe in it. That Hardy doesn’t keeps him from reaching the light of his own invention, but also reveals that the point was never in getting something that actually works. Indeed, that the “invention” is no more than a placebo is actually better for the company than a device that works, because it’s cheaper and much more profitable to give the illusion of innovation. To tap into what people want without ever having to satisfy it. It’s a bit of haunting moment for Hardy, all wrapped in the hungry smile that his boss gives him, the one that lets him in on the secret, on the lie, on the nature of the business he’s in. That sees, too, that he’s not above it, that he’s not going to stand up and say that what he’s doing is wrong. That knows that he is complicit and trapped and it really is a nice and creepy moment. One that resolves into the status quo asserting itself like a ghoul, hungry not only for money but for integrity, leaving nothing but corruption in its wake. A great read!

“Colonized Bodies, Desiccated Souls” by Nin Harris (3210 words)

No Spoilers: Udin is the leader of a group of people who have tasked themselves with the protection of humanity. Along with his partner, Salmah, he dispatches zombie after zombie in the hopes of keeping his home safe against their mindless assault. It’s an invasion in a double sense, as well, as it’s only the colonizing whites who become zombies, leaving the rest of the population to try and mount a defense. Udin and Salmah are very good at what they do, but Salmah has something of a secret she’s been hiding, one that she can’t hide any longer. It’s a rather moving story featuring a central love story that is compelling and tragic. It’s heartbreaking and sharp, hungry and hurt.
Keywords: Zombies, Colonization, Breakups, Infections, Food
Review: It’s an interesting twist on the zombie tropes to have them be literal invaders, colonizers who find that they become undead. As the story itself points out, it makes literal the metaphorical damage that colonization does, and it makes for an impossible situation for the people who find that the people who have already subjugated them now want to eat them as well. And this works into the relationship between Udin and Salmah, who at the center of this conflict. They are people who in some ways are traditional but who make exceptions for the current circumstances, knowing that they don’t want to let prudish formality keep them from expressing the fullness of their love and desires. There are some things, though, that can still get between them, despite the easy affection the story shows they have. And it’s the breaking apart of their relationship, the breaking apart of their hearts, that sits at the crux of the story, where the two realize that they can neither be together nor completely hate the other. They are in love, but trapped by differences that they can’t control. And I like how the story moves from Udin to Salmah’s perspective, showing him desperate to deny what’s happening until he can’t, and then shifting over to Salmah, angry and spurned, as she tries to a live a life between, which in that time and place means no where. For me it speaks with an empathy to the impossible situation that Salmah is in, carrying an infection she never chose, a cycle of victimization keeping her from any community, pushing her to embrace her anger and her hunger on her own. It’s not exactly a happy or hopeful story, but it does a great job of exploring loss, infection, and colonization. Go check it out!


1 comment:

  1. Who knew when the eureka moment hit me to write 'The Inspiration Machine' that it would inspire such an encouraging review? Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    I too found Nin Harris' 'Colonized Bodies, Desiccated Souls' a poignant and beautifully written story.