When I was a kid, I had an anthology called Microcosmic Tales. Correction: my brother had an anthology, which I frequently, and eventually permanently, appropriated. It was exceptional in that the stories were selected by Isaac Asimov, whose name I knew despite having never read his stuff, alongside Martin Greenberg and Joseph Olander, whose names I still don’t know despite having never read their stuff. The other defining characteristic of the book was that it featured 100 stories, and each of them was considered a “short-short,” often no more than two or three pages in length, some less.
I now know that calling something a short-short says just as much about its form as it does about its length. At that point, though, I barely even recognized how short those stories were; I was writing 2-3 page science fiction stories myself around then. What I did know was that these stories represented everything enjoyable about science fiction boiled down to its essence. There wasn’t room for them to be bad: they were barely long enough to establish a single concise idea or theme, then cap it off with an (often humorous) plot twist. It was like finding a VHS with the last 5 minutes of 100 different Twilight Zone episodes; in a word, utter mindfuckery. And thence began my love affair with idea-centric fiction.
That’s probably why I jumped at the chance to review the inaugural issue of One Weird Idea, a new e-format periodical, for Innsmouth Free Press. The really nice thing about idea-centric fiction is that, even if the writing is just awful, it always gives you something to think about. Like all those movies that fell off the Matrix train. To my great pleasure, the writing in OWI was surprisingly good…well, a lot of it was, particularly for such a self-consciously “genre” publication. I had this to say about the stories in general:
They traffic in predetermination, hyper-connectivity in the post-Information Age, or the triumph of New Age mysticism over scientific rationalism. In fact, the title’s a bit imprecise: It’s not the ideas that are weird, it’s the world shaped by them. What gives these stories their power is the same threat that has loomed over science fiction from the beginning: more than a “What If?” scenario, these are worlds on the verge of becoming, the imaginable – but not always desirable – futures nascent in the ideas and technologies of our age. In the end, they are always about human nature, and the latent question is always: Will we be able to adapt to the times, or will we change the times to adapt to us? Which possibility is the more horrifying?
Read the full review here.
As you may have noticed, “utter mindfuckery” is two words. Ah, but wait! How does Merriam-Webster define “mindfuckery” again? Go on, I’ll wait.
Ah-hah! How’s that for a plot twist?