Short stories are a difficult matter to handle: on one side, they might not give the same satisfactory “density” of a book, on the other they afford you a glimpse into a world, a setting you know you would enjoy – but end all too soon.
Every time I read about some fellow blogger reluctance about reading short stories, I understand, but at the same time I see these smaller offerings as a way to sample authors I have not read yet, without committing to a full book.
For this mont of November dedicated to science fiction, I’ve decided to look up some of the short stories offered online by many sites, and see what I could find. It was a somewhat difficult search, because not all stories were to my taste, but what I found made it all quite worthwhile: my heartfelt thanks to all those online magazines that allowed me to sample such an incredible variety of stories.
Pathways by Nancy Kress – from Clarkesworld Magazine
This is my second short story from Nancy Kress, the first one being included in the Dangerous Women anthology, and it reinforced my resolve about reading her longer works, since I do like her style very much.
Pathways is a story of deprivation: of means and education, of opportunities for bettering oneself and even of the drive to seek something better, something more. Ludmilla Connors comes from a large family living at the margins of society in a depressed area, and the scant details about the outside world point to a dystopian background where the ruling government has banned most – if not all – kinds of scientific research.
Ludmilla’s family, and a few others in the neighborhood, suffer from an added burden: the great majority of the members succumb to a syndrome called “Fatal Familial Insomnia”, where lack of sleep brings behavioral changes, madness and death. Going against the family’s whishes and public ostracism, Ludmilla signs herself in for an experimental treatment that will, if nothing else, bring some much-needed cash in the Connors’ pockets.
Shunned by her family, Ludmilla comes to live at the clinic, where the forced isolation brings her – ironically enough – in contact with the wider world, and she learns that there is much more out there than the closed confines of her reality have shown her: there is an Algernon-like quality to her journey that’s quite poignant and brings to light the extraordinary courage of this young woman, driven by desperation to make more of her life, and that of the people she cares about.