These three short stories were sent to me by an independent publishing house promoting their writers. For the next week or so these three stories (there are others, but I was not attracted to their genres) sell on Amazon for USD 0.99 and are supposed to rise to USD 2.99 thereafter. I like stories such as these for my students of English as a second language. I must read everything I recommend making sure I don’t damage cultural sensitivities.
The blurb accompanying SYNCO™ by J.R. Kruze is this mouthful of run-together words: Short Fiction Young Adult Science Fiction Fantasy. That could be two genres or four.
Our unnamed narrator has found a glitch, a hole, an imperfection in the system. The folks at SYNCO™ had forgotten one thing, one human trait. Humans employing the term as part of their life could threaten or even dismantle the “machine.” Our narrator found the secret in a used bookstore. Of course. Where else would collected wisdom reside? And that one six-letter world in the spoiler I won’t reveal.
This very short story is only 29 pages and has such great quotes as “IF YOU DON’T PAY FOR the product, you ARE the product.” (Kindle location 154). Sound familiar? I will be interested in feedback from my uber-socialized students. One criticism I have relates to the explanation of terms. If writers dare to use SNAFU, they should be brave enough to print what it means. That goes for other things too, such as APIs. I give this short story four Amazon stars.
The Girl Who Built Tomorrow is another short story by J.R. Kruze and fits into the same mouthful description of the genre. In this story, Eliza is a lonely girl in a family with five older brothers. She is unusual in her talent with all things mechanical. Her entire family worked as mechanics, but Eliza’s talent was unique. When she fixed problems for them that they could not understand, her results made the machines run even better. When that came to race cars, this was a definite plus.
In High School, Eliza met Bert when they were assigned on a group project. Who would have thought that they each worked on pit crews for older brothers who loved racing? But this was High School. Time would move forward as would Bert and Eliza. Until they met years later at a conference concentrating on new inventions.
This short story is set in an undetermined past. Females do not have rights; they can’t appear as presenters at conferences. They must disguise the gender in publications by using initials (APA anyone?) and Eliza hates it that when she must appear in public it is under layers of clothing which in turn is under an acceptable dress. She prefers jeans and a ball cap.
The story has the feel of Steampunk in that Bert and Eliza are talking theoretically about radium energy. Then Eliza also speaks of powering vehicles to the Moon, so readers are taken past our present and into the future. I gave this story four Amazon stars and want to point out the notable line; one that is probably a marketing truth. “Always sell them what they want but give them what they need.” (Kindle location 241). The explanation that follows this line is great fun. Read this and see how true it is today.
In The Lonely Witness by R. L. Saunders, the author gives us two stories. Witness is a clever title and is a play on words, but a reader must read the story to get the idea. Lyle may have been a popular woman in the village. If not, she was probably at least accepted. But that was before the latest trial which she won. The guy was big and stronger than her. She was vulnerable. And the law always decided on the part of the vulnerable. But citizens of the town didn’t agree. They stopped talking when she was around. Shops turned their signs to “closed” as she walked by. Worst of all, people moved away from the village. No new people moved into the town. Soon, Lyle and her house stood alone. There was no village.
But Lyle didn’t care. She had her garden, her chickens, and her books. She lived in and through her books. She treasured her solitude. Occasionally women from neighboring villages would stop by and leave food or things to read. Until one day people who stopped by found only a note. After that day Lyle was hard to ignore.
The second story by Saunders is the Beltway Gremlin. Remember the illustrations of a young boy or girl looking to their left and right shoulders and noticing an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other? With this story, Fairies are Good, and Gremlins are Bad. The two try to influence human behavior for good or bad. Gremlins are happy and well fed when humans act out anger, spite, and vengeance. Note the presence from the title of the “Beltway.” Gremlins and fairies are permanent residents of the swamp that was to be drained. They are present to influence legislators. Layla is a fairy and has made the acquaint of Bonzo, a Gremlin. Each thinks that one of them has a good chance to convert the other one. And through that, the policies of Washington will change.
So that leaves us with only a few questions. Where do Fairies and Gremlins go during a government shutdown? (For those who come across this post at some time in the future, but before 2020, this post was written in January 2019). I gave this story four Amazon stars for the type of satire used. I believe the author described it as snarky.