Monday, January 14, 2019

2086, by T.K. Lê

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[Strange Horizons]
★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended

(Ghost Story) The narrator tells how her grandmother disappeared trying to use a new teleportation device to go home to Vietnam but her spirit stayed around afterwards. (6,361 words; Time: 21m)

"," by (edited by Jane Crowley and Kate Dollarhyde), appeared in issue 01/07/19, published on .

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

Review: 2019.070 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: The best part of the story is the family interactions which tell us a lot about the personalities of the different characters.

I laughed out loud at this line: “It took a week before any police came because they thought we were making things up.”

Con: The premise is very hard to accept: that someone invented a teleportation device and it was first installed in poor neighborhoods and offered to everyone for free as a way of testing it.

The narration is a bit unnatural, although one could argue that it’s intended to sound like a non-native speaker wrote it.

The story doesn’t have an actual plot; it goes on for a long time and then just ends abruptly.

A minor but annoying nit: 2086 is not a presidential election year in the US. Even if it were, it would be in November, not January. This caused me to think the story was set in Vietnam for the first 2/3 of it.

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T.K. Lê Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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3 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I thought about the presidential election, too. But signs point to this being intentional. It's something that's hard for any college-educated American to get wrong, it's in a a professional publication with editors who also know how American presidential election scheduling works, it'd be super easy for the publication to say "we'll accept this story if you fix the date or take out the reference to the presidential election."

    There are indications throughout the story that this is an unreliable narrator, which might not be a good choice for a speculative fiction piece, but that seems more likely than that a college-educated author who grew up in the United States and a team of experienced editors all simultaneously goofed this hard on something really basic.

    1. You'd be surprised what gets through the filter. I'm told that at least one of the publications I review never asks authors for any edits at all. If they accept a piece, they always take it as-is.

  2. A nice vignette of a Vietnamese American family. An easy fix for the month and date would have been to make the speech the State of the Union address. The very specific numerical references ("January 22, 2086, exactly ten days before my eighth birthday") and the fact that the title was the year made me wonder if those numbers have particular significance in Vietnamese culture.