the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Rachel Swirsky’ Category

All of the Hugo nominated short stories are available to read online, and you can read Rachel Swirsky’s lyrically haunting “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love”, from the March issue of Apex Magazine, here.    (I’ll be posting reviews of the Hugo Nom’d short stories all week)

 

Here are my thoughts on “If You Were A Dinosour, My Love”, by Rachel Swirsky.

 

Half song, half prose poem, half prayer, with each paragraph beginning with the last phrase of the previous paragraph, the story put me in the mind of how a masterfully composed symphony returned to variations on a theme.

The title is the first line of the story, and it builds so very slowly –  she’s going through a thought experiment of if he was a dinosaur.  That his singing voice would be beautiful, that the geneticists would be all over him, that so he wouldn’t be lonely they would clone a mate for him, and even though she’d have lost him to a lady dinosaur, she wouldn’t be sad for losing him.

This is not a story, this is a kaleidoscope, with each touch, each incremental move of the barrel bringing something completely different into focus, taking you somewhere else, taking you one step closer to where the narrator is, at first, afraid to go. She wants to give you the imaginative, the impossible, the fantastically beautifully absurd before forcing you down to reality. You’re not sure where the story is going, you’re spiraling towards something, obviously, but the pitch perfect imagery is such a distraction that you don’t really care where you’re going. And then the end smacks you like a T-Rex’s jaw clamping down on your neck, and you suddenly know, without a doubt, exactly where that first sentence came from, where every sentence and thought came from. But a T-Rex is not about to eat you, this is reality and you are unfortunately, doomed to live.

You’ll be lured in by the lyricalness, pulled in further by the inescapable emotion, and then profoundly moved by the haunting devastation. This story killed me a little bit, and then I read it again, and it killed me a little bit more.  A truly amazing piece.

ApexMag46Swirsky

Robots: The Recent A.I., edited by Rich Horton and Sean Wallace

published in 2012 from Prime Books

where I got it: purchased

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For no good reason, I’ve never read much short fiction. I’ve had mixed luck with anthologies in the past, and that is a terrible reason to shy away from short fiction. Good thing I ran into Robots: The Recent A.I., an anthology so packed with my favorite authors that I felt like a kid in a candy store.  Authors such as Cory Doctorow, Cat Valente, Lavie Tidhar, Tim Pratt, Rachel Swirsky and more whipping up near and far future tales of an aspect of science fiction that is near and dear to my heart: artificial intelligence. How could I possibly say no? Most of these stores have already appeared elsewhere, but I had only ever heard of the Valente and Doctorow titles. Blazing big and bold on the cover is the word “robots”, but artificial intelligence is so much more that a metal machine that can have a conversation with you or play chess.

These are the stores about the new holy grail: creating an artificial intelligence that is so close to human we can’t tell the difference.   When an AI is so close to human you can’t tell, where is the line between ownership and freedom? Where is the line between loving someone and being programmed to love that person?  For a discussion about cold hard programming, where every decision comes down to a sharply defined one or zero, these are some mighty emotional and sensual stories. Some are told from a humans point of view, others are from the point of view of an AI. These are not your Papa Asimov’s robot stories, and it’s suddenly about more than playing chess.

It’s one thing to program a machine to believe that it is a human. It’s an entirely different thing to deal with the consequences. Frankenstein’s monster indeed.

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The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer

Published July 2011

Where I got it: rec’d  a review copy from Harper Voyager

Why I read it: have been following this doctor for a while, and I want to get my hands on anything Jeff VanderMeer is involved in

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In homage of the Neatorama game that would have an utter nerdgasm if faced with Dr Lambshead’s Cabinet of Curiosities, I offer you the ultimate meta’d “What is it?” game: The Thackery T Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities itself.

Well, what is it? Exhibition? Self guided museum tour? Self referential satire? A massive inside joke? Eulogy? An unearthing of the madness of a harmless eccentric? I think a line from the movie Catch Me if You Can, (which coincidentally came out the year before Lambshead’s death) sums it up nicely: “people only know what you tell ‘em”.

Dr Thackery T Lambshead was born in 1900. Trained as a physician and scientist, but a true renaissance man, Dr. Lambshead travelled the world, collecting things here and there, making sure other things got back to their home countries, filling countless diaries with descriptions along the way. Briefly married in the 1950’s, the doctor may have never fully recovered from his wife’s tragic death in a car accident. Filling his home with collectibles and oddities, and occasionally culling the collection by permanently lending items out to museums, he became more and more eccentric. After his death in 2003, appraisers made their way through his home, discovering wonder after bizarre wonder, and trying to connect the objects to descriptions and references found in Thackery’s diaries. And then they happened on the secret underground bunker, a cabinet of curiosities that made the upstairs collection look like nothing more than a museum gift shop.

The Thackery T Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities then, is a collection of remembrances of the doctor himself, descriptions (and some outright guesses) of the strange items found in his home, and most importantly it is an attempt to discover what would cause a man to fill his home with such strange and disturbing things. With entries by Ted Chiang, Rachel Swirsky, Charles Yu, Michael Cisco and Reza Negarestani, Lev Grossman, Naomi Novik among many, many others, along with corresponding artwork and photographs, this is a book that’s more than a book. It’s a curiosity unto itself, an experience, a portal, a self guided tour through the mind of someone whose collection created him as much as he created his collection.

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2014 Hugo Awards

I reviewed some Hugo nominated stuff. Click here for the list.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.