Thursday, August 30, 2007

Marc Schultz's "Practicing My Sad Face": Moving & plausible, if not original

It managed to evoke strong emotions near end, in spite of tired plot. And it's understandable, unlike much recent fiction from Strange Horizons that just went over my head.

On the negative side, nothing about the plot is original. And there is way too much jargon for my taste.

Full text of the story is available online.

Story summary.
Billy, the narrator, is the sole survivor of a terrorist strike, & is recuperating in a hospital. He has had his face patched up by plastic surgeons, & his eyes & ears are replaced with bionic implants. There is also much damage to brain - some implants have been fitted, but much of his old memory is gone. And he now behaves like a little child.

Story begins with loving care he is receiving from Dr Janice Anderson, & his live-in girlfriend, Joyce Farley. Until Joyce cannot take it anymore, & decides to part ways. Now she is coming for a last visit to announce breakup, & Dr Anderson wants Billy to practice sad expressions on his face & use them during Joyce's visit - so he won't be grinning when Joyce announces the parting.

End is another terrorist bombing on train bringing Joyce; tracks run near hospital. While hospital staff is busy attending to victims, Billy also goes out to accident side alone - with just a 50 minutes battery for his implants. He describes the gory scenes.

We are not told the final fate, but I presume he dies in innocence at accident side when battery runs out, while Joyce died in this second attack.

Fact sheet.
Practicing My Sad Face, short story, review
First published: Strange Horizons, 27 August 2007
Rating: B


Anonymous said...

I don't get the impression he died.

"I speak my answer aloud so pMemory will remember it for me"

I assume because of that fragment that when the battery dies he can no longer record long term memories or recognize faces. But as soon as he is sheparded back home he is resurrected.

Anonymous said...

Also could you tell us some previous works that use the same tired plot?

Tinkoo said...

In response to comments #1 & #2 above:

1. Whether he died near end. Well I suppose you can read it either way. When battery died, no one apparently noticed. I suppose author can choose to resurrect him - though I got the impression it was the end.

2. "could you tell us some previous works that use the same tired plot?": You want me to list the stories where a kind of cyborg is created by linking the brain of a human with major head injuries with a computer? Or an accident where one of a couple gets seriously injured, & that becomes reason for the two to eventually fall apart? There must be thousands of stories with these plot elements.

Anonymous said...

No, just the first cliche plot please.

My mind is blocked and can only remember one by Greg Egan - :Reasons to be cheerful" where a teenager has whose happiness receptors are all wiped out. For the next ten years he lives a life of abject misery until it's replaced by a computer and he has to consciously decide whether to like something or not.

the same guy as above.

Tinkoo said...

Responding to comment #4 above: I have a few posts on cyborg stories here.

Neuromancer is actually well imitated. I am sure there will be more cyborg stories here in days to come - even though I've had my fill. I haven't read Egan, though.