The story “God in the Sky”, by An Owomoyela, is especially interesting coming as it does on the heels of the Rapture hype in the news in May. In this story, a light appears in the sky. Scientists study it, others claim it is evidence of God, everyone panics. Owomoyela uses the light in the sky as the motivating force for a study of family dynamics in this character-based piece. The secondary theme involves the relationship of people to their religion, or lack of one. In the face of ill-defined potential doom, people turn to and from their families, to and from their religions. As in real life, and unlike many stories, none of these tensions are resolved.
“In Orbit”, by Katherine Fabian, is a tale of love, and stories, and truth. ‘Love’ is the sturdy, familiar love between a grandfather and his granddaughter, the mature love that could grow in an arranged marriage, the precarious love between a spider and a fly, the tumultuous love that arrives unexpectedly. ‘Stories’ include Dickens, Jewish folktales, the stories that we tell ourselves, and those we meet whether we mean to or not, all encompassed within this single story. And truth? Truth powers the golems.
The plot of this story is as old as stories, but here it is told with loving attention to detail and set in a less-common culture, a culture of of the logical and internally-consistent Jewish magic so very close to science. The author weaves together all the stories and details into an appealing picture of the life of a young Jewish woman.
I had trouble relating to the first-person narrator in the short story “Updates Available” by Ryan Leeds, but that may have been the point. This story is told from the point of view of an autistic child who has bonded with a robot. In the science fictional world Leeds portrays, autism can be repaired by inserting a chip, although this procedure has not yet been done for the protagonist. To my mind, this kind of concept piece, meant to portray a perception outside the mainstream, must be done with a great deal of deftness and care. This story does not meet that goal. On my first reading, I came away with an interpretation very different than my second, because the beginning does not mesh well with the very different brief payoff at the end. The author’s decision to write such a short piece did help, as I don’t think the effect could be carried for much longer without losing the reader’s attention.