Tag Archives: Short Stories

Hopeful Science Fiction: The Toynbee Convector

In June of 2018 I blogged about my desire to read more hopeful science fiction. Since then I’ve talked about Woman on the Edge of TimeThe Lovely BonesSemiosis, and Astraea. Today I’m back with another recommendation for hopeful sci-fi. This time it’s a short story! 

If you have recommendations for future instalments of this series, I’d sure like to hear them. Leave a comment below or send me message about it on Twitter.

The Toynbee Convector

“The Toynbee Convector” is a short story by Ray Bradbury that was first published in 1984 as a standalone piece. It was later republished as part of an anthology, so that is where the book cover in this post came from.

Feel free to click on the link at the beginning of this sentence if you’d like to read it for yourselves before continuing on with this post. It’s a quick read.

The storyline follows a reporter named Roger Shumway who has been given the opportunity to interview Craig Bennett Stiles, a time traveller who had visited the distant future  and come back home bursting with hope.

A century has passed since his trip, and Stiles is a very old man now. This interview will almost certainly be his last chance to tell the world more about what his journey was like and why he was so excited about what he saw in humanity’s future.

Given the short length of this piece and my strict no-spoilers policy, I can’t tell you much else about the plot. Let’s talk about my emotional reaction to it instead!

Real Problems with No Easy Solutions

The first thing that impressed me about this short story was that it existed in our universe, warts and all. This wasn’t an episode of Star Trek….although Star Trek would be an interesting choice for a future Hopeful Science Fiction post!

These characters were well aware of the pollution, violent conflict, inequality, climate change, and other major issues that humanity has yet to solve.

I found it fascinating to see how Roger reacted to the idea that so many of our biggest threats would be resolved. He was just as intrigued – and honestly maybe a little suspicious of – those claims as I would be if I spoke to someone who claimed that this same scenario would happen in real life.

Everyone Needs Hope

The importance of hope was of the recurring themes in Roger and Craig’s interview, and it was the second thing that made me think this would be the perfect addition to this series.

Craig had come of age at a time when the average’s person hope for the future was waning. So many unsuccessful attempts had been made to fix the world that some folks were beginning to wonder if it was impossible for us to make things better.

Can one person make a difference?

If one person isn’t capable of improving the world, how many willing participants do you need in order to change things?

What do you do when nothing seems to work?

I’ll leave it up my readers to discover the answers to these questions for themselves.

We All Have Choices

Not everyone necessarily has the same opportunities in life, but we all have choices.

The third thing that convinced me this was a piece of hopeful science fiction worth sharing with all of you was how Craig and Roger responded to the choices that were available to them.

Their personalities couldn’t have been more different. Roger was a risk-taker, while Craig was someone who seemed to have spent his entire life making the most cautious moves possible.

Yet they both made decisions that were eerily similar. I loved seeing how two personalities on opposite sides of the spectrum could end up coming to some of the same conclusions.

Those of you who read the free copy of this story before continuing on with this post know what I’m talking about. For everyone else, I’m doing my best to entice you to check it out without giving away too many details.

What hopeful science fiction stories have you been reading recently?

Unlikely Allies: A Review of Pads for His Throne

Content Warning: Blood.

This is otherwise a spoiler-free review.

Title: Pads for His Throne

Author: Olli Crusoe

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: 2016

Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Humour

Length: 33 pages

Source: I received a free copy from Ollie.

Rating: 5 stars

Blurb: A regular night at the office changes Louise’s life, when a running gag summons an ancient evil from a forgotten time. To be honest, it’s probably harder on the ancient evil, though. Not only the times have changed.

Demons come in all shapes and sizes.

Before I talk about demons, though, let’s talk about menstruation. This is a topic that I’ve seen mentioned in fewer books than I have fingers on my left hand, and I genuinely can’t remember the last time it happened in the science fiction genre. The fact that it was not only mentioned but played an important role in the plot early on was one of several reasons why I decide to review this story.

Once I met Terazael, the demon that Louise accidentally summoned, I knew this was something I had to recommend to my audience. Terazael had been around for eons, and his understanding of our world was rooted in the mind of a creature who has seen countless civilizations rise and fall. That is to say, he had no idea how modern life works, and his assumptions about what sort of person would summon him might not have been totally accurate.

The relationship between Louise and Terazael was deliciously odd. He expected her to worship him as the powerful, immortal being that he was. She expected him to be a figment of her imagination and was perplexed when that didn’t turn out to the be case. They had nothing at all in common at first glance, and yet I couldn’t imagine a funnier or more memorable duo. She was as snarky as he was enthusiastic.

There was only one thing I wavered on when writing this review, and that had to do with whether or not I should include a horror tag in it. Like demons everywhere, Terazael relished the thought of blood sacrifices – especially of the virgin variety –  and talked about his desire for them them regularly and in great detail. While this wasn’t a gory story overall, it was something I thought I should mention for anyone who dislikes references to blood or torture because of how enthusiastic he was on the topic. I can’t go into more details about his preferred types of recreation or how successful he might have been with them without giving away spoilers, but I’d be happy to discuss it privately with anyone who would like more information.

I couldn’t have imagined a better ending for this story. Both Terazael and Louise struggled with problems that they had no clue how to resolve, especially in the first few scenes when she was still trying to figure out what sort of creature he was and if he really existed. It was fascinating to me to see how the plot dealt with their problems and what happened once they each realized that all of their attempts to solve them weren’t working.

Pads for His Throne was a wonderful read. Olli couldn’t have done a better job with his storytelling, and I look forward to reading more from him in the future.

Adventures on the Orange Planet: A Review of The Lady of Dawnzantium

As mentioned earlier this summer, I’ve decided to include more book reviews in the publication queue for this blog. Everything I review will somehow be connected to the speculative fiction genre, and I will highlight authors whose books are self-published, indie, or from small presses as often as possible.

As always, my reviews are spoiler free.

Title: The Lady of Dawnzantium – A Trace & Mikhail Story

Author: Berthold Gambrel

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: 2018

Genres: Science Fiction, Mystery, Humour

Page Count: 13 pages

Source: I received a free copy from Berthold.

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Blurb: Two adventurers encounter a strange creature on a remote colony world in this humorous sci-fi short story.

Review:

Nearly every small town has a local legend or two. This is true even for communities that were built on faraway planets only a few years ago!

This was one of the funniest tales I’ve read in ages, but I can’t give you specific examples of why that is so. Let’s just say that not everything in Dawnzantium, the planet Trace and Mikhail are visiting in order to hopefully solve a local mystery, is necessarily what it first appears to be. Pay attention to everything the characters say and enjoy the ride!

The one thing I wish had been made more clear in this short story is whether it was part of a series that needed to be read in a specific order. The subtitle and certain references in the storyline made me think it may be part of a much larger universe, and I’m a stickler for reading books in order. I wasn’t entirely sure at first if this was a sequel, prequel, beginning of a new series, or something that was intended to be read as a standalone work. It would have been nice to know for certain  that I wasn’t accidentally jumping into the middle of a series when I started this tale.

One of the things I like the most about the science fiction genre in general is how it imagines humans will react to living in places that don’t look or feel much like Earth at all. Some of the strongest scenes were the ones that explained what Dawnzantium looked like and how it was different from our home planet. Humans could live there fairly comfortably, but there were a few things about it that were unique.

Figuring how whether to use the mystery tag in this review was a fun challenge. There were mystery elements in the plot, but the storyline remained firmly rooted in the science fiction genre. This is something I’d recommend to readers who are curious about mysteries but not quite sure if that genre is right for them. The little taste of it here may be enough to help you make up your minds either way!

The ending was fabulous. While it was something I’d briefly wondered about while reading earlier scenes, seeing the narrator go off in the direction I’d been speculating about was still a great deal of fun. Readers who paid close attention to the beginning will get a nice payoff by the final scene.

This is a must-read for anyone who enjoys humorous science fiction.