I arrived in Sweat City - Houston - late last night. The voyage on the Great Silver Aerial Bus was uneventful. There was a goodly wait for the jitney ride to the rental car lot, but no surprises. I had to suffer through the usual ungrammatical pre-recorded announcement (“For your safety, and those around you...”) - will they ever fix that? - but the ride to town was smooth thanks to the late hour. I tuned the radio to one of the local college stations in order to get my Minimum Annual Requirement of death metal, and arrived at my hotel just in time to catch The Venture Brothers on the Cartoon Network.
I like to have a book with me when I travel. I can usually sleep through a two-hour flight, but it helps to have reading material in order to get the snooze process started, and to me, “reading material” does not encompass the dog-eared copies of Boating World, Ebony, or Latin American Business that constitute the majority of Airplane Reading Matter these days. That, and that stupid-ass Catalog of Useless and Overpriced Crap for Travelers. Feh.
So I brought a book along.
Usually, I have a few unread books handy on the nightstand, but I just killed Big Bang by Simon Singh, and there was nothing new in the pipeline. So I ransacked Elder Daughter’s room to find something. There’s a treasure trove of literature in there, much of which has been, ahem, borrowed from Dear Old Dad and somehow never returned. Hell, at least it’s here and not in Cambridge...not all of it, anyway. To be honest, I’m flattered and pleased that my daughters enjoy many of the same reads I do.
So I grabbed a copy of In The Upper Room (and other likely stories) by Terry Bisson.
Bisson is a relatively recent entrant on the SF scene - to me, recent meaning within the last 10-15 years - and he writes with a distinctive voice. There are a few short pieces in this collection that are now on the list of Stories That May Be Reread Many Times, Ad Infinitum, Without Boring Me. To wit:
“macs” - Set in an America in which victims’ rights are dramatically expanded, Closure is the process by which a victim’s family extracts their personal revenge on the criminal. In the case of multiple murderers, cloning technology comes into play...
“There Are No Dead” - If your life had a magical “reset” button, how old would you want to get?
These are just the premises of the stories. What makes them so compelling is the way Bisson tells them: his voice, his narrative technique, his inventiveness. The other stories in this book are also good, but to me, these two stand out.
And if you want to get another taste of Bisson’s work, get hold of a copy of Bears Discover Fire, his first short story collection. Don’t miss “They’re Made Out Of Meat.”