I think the theme of the stories this month would be identity and love. Most of the stories below involve, in some respect, the forces necessary to draw two people together. I wouldn't exactly call these valentines but each story spoke to me about where love is between people in this early point of the 21st century. I hope enjoy reading them as much as I did!
- Hero by Damian Aw: (DSF) I really dig it when an incredibly short story can fold up so much drama inside its narrow narrative. This flash piece takes from concept to stakes to consequence in an admirably brief tale. A man goes from movie to movie, correcting all of those tiny tragedies essential for a certain kind of story-telling. I was reminded of some of the closing themes of "Red Shirts," by John Scalzi: the obligation writers owe to their creations.
- Marcel Proust, Incorporated by Scott Dalrymple. (Lightspeed) Interesting pharmapunk speculation. What if a drug promoting the retention of memory had the drawback that if you stop taking the drug you will forget everything learned while taking it. From the short vignette at the beginning, to the gestures towards believability, this really worked for me.
- Love Engine Optimization by Matthew Kressel. (Lightspeed) In a near-future NYC, a hacker uses big data mining to win the perfect partner. Parts reminded me of Mr. Robot - the aimless awkward disaffected hacker trying to make a connection in near future Manhattan. Kressel works very hard here to keep the reader engaged with an unsavory protagonist, cheerfully sharing some aspects of the story up front but keeping the more distressing aspects until the end. The goal didn't strike me as being one of encouraging sympathy for the devil but more so the reader understand the very special fate in store for this flawed individual.
- Secret Keeper by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam. (Nightmare) A retaking of the phantom of the opera as though it's a very special episode of Glee. The central idea of this story, that something is owed to the teacher for the gift of instruction is deconstructed here, brought into an even more sinister light than in the original text. Nightmare published a recent re-working of Red Riding Hood, which I also enjoyed.
Personal note: Today I'm also sharing chapter 58 of my web serial, "Agent Shield and Spaceman." Ithink I am under 10 chapters away from being done. I can't give an exact count because I may be tempted to cut one of the last chapters into two more parts.