Showing posts with label short stories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label short stories. Show all posts

Monday, March 6, 2017

Short Story #408: The Adaptive Ultimate by Stanley G. Weinbaum

Title: The Adaptive Ultimate

Author: Stanley G. Weinbaum

Summary:

Book cover to The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum.
Dr. Daniel Scott has a theory about evolution and adaptation and he enlists his friend, Dr. Herman Bach to help him out.  He has created a serum from fruit flies (the supposed most adaptable species) that can heal illnesses in animals.  Now he needs a human to test it on.  Initially appalled, Bach does not look to actively help him but then a terminally ill patient with no chance of survival arrives at the hospital, Kyra Zelas.  They explain to her what they are going to try to do, explaining that it’s unlikely to be successful but she chooses to be a subject.  To everyone’s surprise, it works overwhelmingly well and she recovers full in a short time.  Upon release though she commits murder, with no justification other than to obtain the man’s wallet.  In the court trial, Scott and Bach expect they will need to help her but as she is described by witnesses, her appearance changes, leaving the court incapable of prosecuting her.  The doctors bring her to Herman’s home with hopes of studying her further as they begin to realize that she can mutate and adapt at will in response to any dangers.  As the doctors realize what they have done, Zelas becomes increasingly aware and comfortable with her abilities.  She leaves them for long stretches and takes up with increasingly more powerful men and they attempt to stop her but are powerless to directly attack her.  They devise a plan to suffocate her with carbon dioxide when she visits them again.  Once asleep, they manage to kill her by destroying her pineal gland through her nose.  Once dead, her physical beauty disappears and she returns to what she had previously looked like; except for Dan, who couldn’t help but love her, still sees the beautiful version of Zelas.

Reflection

Much like his previous stories, I'm impressed with some of the scientific questions that Weinbaum is grappling with in this tale. It's clearly a Frankenstein-inspired tale that raises interesting questions about the evolutionary idea of adaptation and ideas around gene-splicing.  I'm less impressed with Weinbaum's view of women or at least Zelas.  I think it was noticeable for me because his previous two stories that I've read are devoid of women and this story has at best a dubious representation of women.  Elements of it remind me of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, wherein two men bet upon how a lowly impoverished girl can make it in high society, but much more nefarious.  As doctors, Bach and Scott use their authority to convince a nearly-dying girl to accept an untested drug.  They follow this with the assumption that then Zilas is their property and when she does not act as such, their only recourse is to knock her own and while she lay asleep, kill her (by penetrating her face).  Needless to say, it leaves one a bit dubious.  

Rating:  5 (out of 5 stars)


Source:  The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum by Stanley G. Weinbaum.  Ballantine Books, 1974.  You can read the story for free on this website.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

My first published short-short...

Word cloud in the shape of a tombstone.
So FunDead Publications is a publisher that started up in Salem and whom I've become familiar with.  They do a regular call for short stories, short-short stories, and other creative works of horror.  I decided I would give writing a short-short story a try and I really liked the experience.  Apparently, they did too as they recently published it.  

Here's the link to the story, be sure to go on over and read it--and thinking about signing up for their newsletter.  They have regular content that's always fun to read, watch, or engaged with (I'm a fan of their weekly polls).  Since it is a short-short story, I won't provide you with a lot of it, but here's the opening paragraph:

"Viscous red liquid seeped from the pages of the closed book and crawled in all directions. I thought about what an interesting predicament this was. I pondered what to do.Let the book bleed out, allowing my inner sadist to feast on the sight. Channel my bibliophile horror and attempt to clean up the damaged book. Ride the pounding waves of curiosity and open the tome."



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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Short Story #407: Valley of Dreams by Stanley G. Weinbaum

Title: Valley of Dreams

Author: Stanley G. Weinbaum

Summary:

Book cover to The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum.
This story follows on the heels of Weinbaum's other story, A Martian Odyssey.  Jarvis, the protagonist along with another crew member, Leroy, a Frenchman, return from being away for a few days and look particularly haggard.  They proceed to share their tale about what has transpired.  They had traveled out to collect the films that Jarvis had left behind.  They encounter a large and mostly abandoned city, where they encounter the alien race that Jarvis met before and even stumble upon Tweel.  Tweel gives them a tour of the space, where they encounter large paintings of the aliens and what look like humans but with elongated noses.  Jarvis and Leroy realized that at some point, Tweel's race had made it to Earth and proved the inspiration for Thoth, an Egyptian god.  Later, they discover the reciprocal relationship between Tweel's people, the Thoth, and the barrelmen from the previous story.  Later, as they leave the city, Jarvis and Leroy are drawn to a valley where they are seeing things that aren't there and Tweel fiercely interferes long enough for both of them to realize that the valley is filled with dream beasts.  After the struggle to get free, they return home and speculate as to how the Martian world became what they had become through an absence of coal and oil, the use of the sun for energy and the slow loss of water over many many years.  Jarvis also reveals that he turned over atomic weaponry as gratitude for all that he did.  When the others object, he justifies the good gesture by saying Mars is inhabitable at best and that it would create a good future relationship for trading. 

Reflection

What's fascinating about this story is that while Weinbaum's first posed an interesting questions around neutral first encounters and life-forms that are non-carbon, this story delves into the questions about symbiotic alien relationships, environmental destruction, and the future of human kind.  Additionally, Weinbaum predicts solar-power and offers some considerations of what alien relations will look like in the future.  It's a fun story but also a positive forward-looking one that is surprising to see emerge from the 1930s.  Definitely worth a read!    

Rating:  5 (out of 5 stars)


Source:  The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum by Stanley G. Weinbaum.  Ballantine Books, 1974.  You can read the story for free on this website.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Short Story #406: The Martian Odyssey by Stanley G. Weinbaum

Title: The Martian Odyssey

Author: Stanley G. Weinbaum

Summary:

Book cover to The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum.
Jarvis is one among four who are the first to travel to Mars in this classic science-fiction tale from 1934.  He is recounting his tale to his companions after surviving a strange and wild adventure.  While exploring Mars, his transportation fails and he's left trying to get back to his companions across a wide expanse of Mars.  Early in his travails across this unexplored world, he encounters Tweel, a birdlike bipedal who is intelligent and from an advance civilization.  Their ability to communicate is limited but the two work together to make their way across the strange landscape and creatures.  Along the way, they encounter pyramid-creating silicon beasts, semi-sentient grass, dream-beasts, and creatures ceaselessly filling their carts to feed some machine.  Together, Jarvis and Tweel mostly avoid calamity until they disturb the unnatural cavern where the machine sits that the creatures feed.  As the creatures pursue Jarvis and Tweel, they find themselves in a stand-off they are unlikely to win but are saved at the last minute by a crew member.

Reflection

On face value, the story can appear to be just a typical space adventure--the eponymous "odyssey".  But, albeit briefly, Weinbaum makes this tale more align with the epic Odyssey by Homer in that it is not only about a man trying to come home and the strange and alien beings he encounters, but it is also about befriending and working together with a complete and utter stranger.  Tweel and Jarvis are different creatures but their collaboration and willingness to trust one another results in the richer lives and endured safety.   As an alien-first-contact story, it provides an interesting alternative to confrontation and offers connection despite differences.    

Rating:  5 (out of 5 stars)


Source:  The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum by Stanley G. Weinbaum.  Ballantine Books, 1974.  You can read the story for free on this website.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Short Story #405: The Creature from the Black Lagoon by Jim Shephard

Title: The Creature from the Black Lagoon

Author:  Jim Shephard

Summary:

Book cover to Creatures - 30 Years of Monsters edited by John Langan and Paul Tremblay

The story tells the story from the vantage point of the "creature" from the film, The Creature from the Black Lagoon.  The creature has been around for millions of years and presents himself with a sense of disillusion and boredom.  He shares his experiences living in the lagoon, left to his own devices and observing life around him.  However, several people arrive and begin taking measurements and documenting the area.  Some of them leave, but others stay behind and the creature continues to learn about them.  Eventually, the creature approaches those left behind and the interaction leaves the men dead.  New people arrive including a female that the creature grows increasingly curious and fascinated by.  His repeated attempts to grab her attention or capture her result in a confrontation that leaves him mortally wounded and in his last thoughts, essentially accepting that he was indeed deserving of the death he found.  

Reflection

I wasn't enthralled with this story as it felt like a poor attempt at Grendel by John Gardner.  It had its moments and I did appreciate the creature's internal revelation at the end as it descended to its death.  But a story based upon a film that wasn't that great (in my opinion) to begin with meant the story didn't really shine for me. 

Rating:  2 (out of 5 stars)

Source:  Creatures: Thirty Years of Monsters, edited by John Langan and Paul Tremblay.  Prime Books.  ISBN 978-1-60701-284-9

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Short Story #404: Godzilla’s Twelve-Step Program by Joe R. Lansdale

Title: Godzilla's Twelve Step Program

Author:  Joe R. Lansdale

Summary:

Creatures - 30 Years of Monsters Book Cover
After years of fighting other monsters, Godzilla is on the path to recovery, trying to use his might and fire-breathing abilities to do right by the world.  But he struggles a lot.  He doesn’t necessarily have it as bad as other monsters such as King Kong who seems so absence of wit, he only wants to play with Barbie dolls all day, but he does find it a daily struggle not to go on a rampage.  He does have entertainment and an opportunity to let steam out but it doesn’t really match the chance to wreck cities.  His sponsor, Reptilicus, tries to help him through the rough times, but Godzilla falls off the bandwagon after Gamera shows up and starts taunting Godzilla.  The stress builds and Godzilla eventually gives in, obliterating a dog.  But that sip isn’t enough and eventually, he goes on to ravage a city. Before it gets too far the government steps in and offers a devil’s deal.  He can destroy cities, but it must only be cities or parts of cities that they insist on.  When he’s sent to wreak havoc on the part of the city where African Americans live, he rebels and destroys the part of the city where the government is positioned. So fierce is his attack that other monsters join in, while Reptilicus attempts to calm and capture Godzilla with the help of the army.  Though Godzilla is dead and Reptilicus basks in the fame of helping to bring him down, he too begins to hear the call of his inner monster.

Reflection


Such a fun yet morose tale to start of this anthology.  On the one hand, humanizing Godzilla to the point where he’s watching TV and doing human work plays out to some interesting moments, and yet, the monotony and dreariness of Godzilla in a life of repetitive work that seems far from his life’s desires makes a pretty shallow metaphor for human existence and people who find their lives meaningless and ultimately lash out.  Framed in the world of the twelve-step program, it also helps to humanize the struggle substance abuse in the sense that it becomes a self-destructing calling that doesn’t just impact the user but also impacts and even influences the abuser’s friends down similar paths.

Rating:  3 (out of 5 stars)

Source:  
Creatures: Thirty Years of Monsters, edited by John Langan and Paul Tremblay.  Prime Books.  ISBN 978-1-60701-284-9


For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.