Monday, June 13, 2016

Think Galactic- Get In Trouble

Way back in May, before Wiscon, Think Galactic discussed Kelly Link's short story collection "Get In Trouble" (2015). Which is just darn tootin' good, you should read it.

As is our custom with collections, we pre-selected a few for focused discussion, although in this case we did wind up talking about most all of the stories. "Summer People", "Secret Identity", "Two Houses", and "Light" were our focal stories.

Lots of questions of reality & identity, lots of interweaving of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and even superhero elements throughout this collection. All delivered in this style that's kind of Lethem crossed with O'Connor crossed with...someone who writes sexy stuff. Brief discussion sketches and possible spoilers below:

  • We really liked the ghosts, heroes, and doubles recurring throughout.
  • Suggested that this should have a "trigger warning for feels". it's true.
  • Some thought that the writing here was better developed than Link's "Magic For Beginners" collection.
  • We loved, loved, loved Link's writing, regardless. It's fanciful, slightly melancholy, but has a declarative style that was compared to Iain Banks, of all people. We dug this intersection of "high-lit realism" with the fantastic: these stories would be right at home in the New Yorker, and indeed were up for the Pullitzer, yet are solidly genre pieces nonetheless.
  • Tons of discussion of "Secret Identity", about a young girl visiting a superhero convention to meet the man she's had an online relationship, who may be a superhero, or a supervillain, or possibly just a dentist. We really love the shifting style here and fourth-wall breaking, the playing with superhero (genre) conventions, and the way it's left open and ambiguous at the end. Who is Paul Zell?
  • Also loved: the Bubble of Blood.
  • Much to love, also, in "Summer People", which is the most fantasy-like; indeed, it's a fairy-story in the older, non-precious sense. We felt like it had a lot to do with servitude and debt--we dug the dad's line about people getting in the habit of doing things for money--and those in the know compared it to Link's story "Fairy Handbag".
  • I personally had much sympathy for the feeling of being trapped in a place that seems beautiful/magical to outsiders--reminds me of childhood in Appalachia, and also that Pat McManus humor piece: "Nature Burnout".
  • Masterful, hilarious, dark use of world-building by only-showing-a-glimpse. "The queen is moulting again."
  • The closing story, "Light", may have been our overall favorite. Those of us who've spent time in Florida felt it to be intensely Floridian in some hard-to-summarize way.
  • This of course also got me thinking of that other bit of weird Florida wonderfulness, VanderMeer's "Southern Reach" trilogy.
  • But! In "Light", we love the iguanas, the pocket universes, the twin language, ambiguity of it all. And we felt this to be a bizarre commentary on the kind of Platonic otherwordliness of Narnia's "Further up, further in" conception of heaven/other worlds.
  • And so. Much. Black, bleak humor here.
  • "Two Houses" is the most science-fictional piece here--it's on an STL ship on a long voyage. It's also maybe the most formally impressive, skipping between various flavors of space SF and genuine horror without missing a beat.
  • The horror elements--which reminded me a bit of Mieville at his creepiest in "Three Moments of an Explosion", or perhaps Danielewski's "House of Leaves"--work all the better here because there's a gentle, almost Bradbury-esque pastoral element to some parts of the frame.
  • Love the way this layers and messes with a host of familiar tropes--suddenly waking from cryosleep, demonic/demented AI, ghost stories, "am I on the holodeck or not" quandaries.
  • Certain plot elements here also put me in mind of KSR's "Aurora", side note, everything seems to put me in mind of KSR's "Aurora" lately.
Great collection, great discussion, and then we drilled down on some Wiscon plans--I need to put up one more recap of Wiscon awesomeness, by the way.

I'm behind on notes but catching up! Keep up with Think Galactic on their site, Facebook, and Goodreads. Also! Be aware: Megatext #2 is in the pipe, and it will be on the works of Octavia Butler. Details forthcoming...

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