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Andy Where's My Fifteen Minutes?

I've come to the conclusion that I don't understand the SF short story form.

What's there to understand? What could be simpler?

No, I don't. OK, I understand short stories. That is, when there's exposition and some plot, and a resolution. Gift of the Magi for example. There has to be an emotional hook.

In fact, as long as there is an emotional hook, you can drop exposition, plot, and resolution. Sometimes, a short story survives as a curiously verseless poem.

I think the last time I read a solid book of short stories was when I was eleven. My sister bought me a copy of I Sing the Body Electric (Ray Bradbury), and I read it from cover to cover.

You could see the "old" scifi world in it. By old, I mean written by the old guard. From my eleven-year old perspective, that meant people like Bradbury, Moorcock, Pournelle, Niven. A lot of guys. You could feel a little slide-rule, a little fluorescent light in their prose. A little institutional dread.

In my fortieth year, I resolved to understand this form. I bought a subscription to SF&F. I just finished the second copy this morning.

They are dreams.

They are a half-baked idea bubbling to the surface, fleshed out from gossamer strands, given loft and spherical unity, and then released.

Some of them were starkly beautiful. Geoff Ryman's Blocked, for example. And the strange Hiroshima Mon Amour feel of Charles Oberndorf's Another Life. Maybe it's the times, maybe it's the fashion, but I can't seem to shake the Bladerunner soundtrack by Vangelis out of my head when I read them. They all have that dry, cold, Ghormanghast atmospheric feel about them.

The way they fail to close. A bit like life, really. Or an interrupted dream.