The Parliament of Beasts and Birds

Next up in the short story list – “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” by John C Wright. (It’s at http://voxday.blogspot.ch/2014/12/the-parliament-of-beasts-and-birds.html, go read it before reading my thoughts).

It’s got atmosphere, for sure. That’s something that – in my experience – Wright is good at; it’s why I liked _Count to a Trillion_ so much, for example.

And yet … it doesn’t feel like science fiction to me; it feels like a *fable*, like a retelling of something out of Aesop, only with a markedly Christian tinge. And as such, the atmosphere quickly turned suffocating and overwhelming; I had to force myself through the story, after a certain point, because it was going *nowhere*.

Eventually it got somewhere, and it was revealed (a) that it was entirely deus ex machina (which, honestly, was probably the point) and that (b) there’s no real *story* in the sense that a story is something inherently about conflict (person-vs-person, person-vs-society, person-vs-self). It was a snapshot of a moment in time, a moment of change certainly, but still just a still life, rather than a story.

The thing is, though, that such things can work for me; they have done in the past, I am sure they will in the future. And yet this one left me cold; it did not move me *at all*. And that’s probably a result of the fact that it was explicitly a Christian fable, and Christian fables just don’t do it for me.

Which, at the end of the day, somewhat underscores the culture war at the heart of puppygate.

I will be voting this below ‘No Award’.

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Hello again, Mrs. Fiorina.

Carly Fiorina is running for President.

This is hilarious, considering how badly her run for Senate went.

She is attacking former Senator Clinton quite harshly, hoping (perhaps) to stake out a position as the most anti-Hillary candidate.

But she’s also citing, as one of the reasons to support her, her tremendous success as a leader at HP (where she oversaw a misguided merger with Compaq, introduced mass layoffs for the first time in the company’s history, and was eventually fired by the board of directors – a stint for which she is widely disliked by those in Silicon Valley with long enough memories to remember it).

Her tremendous success as an executive of a technology firm. Her executive leadership abilities.

Which is why her staff failed to secure carlyfiorina.org – a site that, as of this writing, consists of the text

“Carly Fiorina failed to register this domain.

So I’m using it to tell you how many people she laid off at Hewlett-Packard.

It was this many:”

followed by one :{ for every person laid off, and the concluding text:

“That’s 30,000 people she laid off. People with families. And what does she say she would have done differently?

“I would have done them all faster.”
—Carly Fiorina”

Leadership at its finest.

Totaled

Next up – Kary English’s _Totaled_, available at http://www.wattpad.com/story/25615548-totaled-a-near-future-sci-fi-short.

Go read it before reading my reaction.

—–

I will be voting this story above NO AWARD. I may be rating it first in the category (a decision I can’t make before reading the others).

This story … for me this story represents some of the best of what science fiction _can be_. It’s got atmosphere; it’s got character; it’s got an interesting idea and looks at the *social* and *emotional* implications of the implementation of that idea.

I find the underlying political premise unlikely, and I’m aware that that unlikely political premise – and the way it gives rise to a dystopia – is likely a big part of why the puppies like this story.

But I don’t care; however unlikely the premise is, the resulting story is well crafted and well executed. The story drew me in; I *cared* about the protagonist.

It’s *not* as well done as the famous 1960s story it most calls to mind; but that would be unreasonable to expect :).

Turncoat

As I consider to be ethically required of me if I’m going to vote in this year’s awards, I am slowly working my way through the nominees.

First up, the short story nominees. They’re *all* puppy nominees. My first read: “Turncoat”, by Steve Rzasa, available here: https://steverzasa.wordpress.com/turncoat/

Go read it, before reading my comments. 🙂

I will be rating this story below ‘No Award’.

On the one hand, it’s not the sort of thing I typically like – it’s milsf, which isn’t my cup of tea. But it’s got an interesting idea: a human-machine hybrid warrior fighting against humans, trapped in a society which is turning ever more hostile to its own human origins and which has determined to wage a war of extermination, turning on his society to protect the humans he used to despise but has come to love.

Great concept. The execution, on the other hand:

(a) the way the character is established in the opening of the story, he has nothing but disdain for, and a feeling of superiority regarding, the humans, so much so that when he says: “Everything about a man is dynamic. Short-lived and vulnerable, yes, but ever-changing. This is what makes me feel alive, to be in their presence”, I fell out of the story in stumped disbelief with a “where the fuck did that come from?” the character is internally inconsistent and unebelievable, and it’s not so much that the character is growing and changing in response to stimulus as it is that he’s *not believable*.

(b) the story raises questions about why human-machine hybrids communicate in human ways and then *ignores it* in future human-hybrid communications, making the exploration seem half-baked.

(c) the villain of the story is cartoonish and appears to be a cardboard cutout.

(d) the moral dilemma is painted in extremely unsubtle and didactic ways, in a way that suggests the comfort-with-complexity of a preteen.

I really liked the idea explored by the story. I really *wanted* to like the story. I think the author is asking an interesting question and that a great story could be built on the concepts contained within. This story, however, wasn’t it.