Saturday, September 5, 2015

Calved, by Sam J. Miller

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A refugee from drowned New York City tries to reconnect with his teenage son during a break from the menial work he does on ice boats. (5,336 words; Time: 17m)

Rating: ★★★★★ Award-Worthy
Recommended By: GDozois:5

"," by (edited by Sheila Williams), appeared in issue 09|15, published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: A genuine tragedy. Painful. Powerful. Very well executed. There's plenty of foreshadowing, but the horror as we realize just what really went down on the dock is very real nonetheless. And it sticks with you for days.

Dom is going away for 12 months, and Thede is going away for four years. If they ever meet again, the young man will have changed utterly. Dom realizes, at the end, that he's hugging his son for the last time. That Thede will never want to see him again. And that Thede's image of him as "some sick person" is justified. Dom really, really loved his son--that shines through almost every paragraph in the story. But violence is a part of who he is, and he commits violence out of his love for his son--not knowing that he's destroying their relationship forever.

Part of what makes this story so perfect is that there's no way for Dom to make it right because explaining what really happened would simply confirm to Thede what sort of man he really is. He's the sort of man who thinks that beating someone up makes a wonderful gift.

The SF element isn't absolutely essential to the story, but the fact that Dom's city was New York makes us identify with him. This really wouldn't have had the power had Dom been from Africa or Asia.

Finally, the fact that the story hurts (and keeps hurting) is not an argument against it. All the greatest literature is tragedy. People use "tragedy" fairly loosely, but "Calved" is the authentic article.

Con: It's arguable that the same story could be written without a speculative element.

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3 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I agree, it's a powerful, memorable relationship story. I'm impressed at how well the two characters come to life with the author's words.

  2. I agree with the rating, the review and the comments.

    This is a very strong story, very deserving of the 5.

  3. Reprinted at Lightspeed: