Short Fiction Discussion: Apocalypses and Mythologies

Two stories I read recently are apocalypses told not from a human perspective but intelligent perspectives outside of it — an android and parrots, respectively — which I think achieve a distance that allows a certain critique of humanity that is both damning and empathetic. These are also stories about mythologies, and possess a certain closeness to the figures invested in them — the people who become the characters in the narratives, and the audiences that these narratives are important to.

These stories are Jennifer Brissett’s “A Song for You” and Ted Chiang’s “The Great Silence.” Discussion on Twitter will take place over next weekend, 10/16-10/18, under the #ShortSFF hashtag. 

Preliminary thoughts (contains spoilers): one of the ways that Brissett’s Elysium works is to consistently radically shift the relationships between characters — each other, society at large, and their communities — to break down cognitive constructs in the audience. “A Song For You” seems to do something similar but more simply, shifting the perception of who is human and who is alien in a few key moments in the text. This story illustrates the link between colonialism and apocalypse and how they are two perspectives of the same story.

“The Great Silence” is not a straightforward myth retelling as such, but addresses the loss of them, the tragedy of not just the death of a species but of their myths and their voices.

In “A Song For You,” stories are found; in “The Great Silence,” stories are lost; and they are both evocative, profound stories of farewells.

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