Hub, Issues: Special 01, 13, 14, 15

Tuesday, 24 July 2007 00:08 Yael Artom
“Connected” by Alasdair Stuart
“More than a Butterfly” by January Mortimer
“Passing Out” by D. J. Muir
"A Brief History of Slip-Time" by Mikal Trimm

Special Issue 01 of Hub features “Connected” by Alasdair Stuart. The protagonist meets Lucy, an old friend, after years when they haven’t seen each other. They start talking about the past and about Lucy’s adventures at school. Lucy used to be a daredevil, so the protagonist is amazed when his cell phone rings and Lucy seems suddenly frightened. When he finally convinces her to tell him why she's scared, Lucy reveals that she thought the call was for her, and she has a very haunting explanation for why she would think this.

“Connected” does not aim for careful characterization and detailed background construction. However, the shortness and minimalism of the story should not deceive the reader; the author achieves exactly what he aims for. “Connected” is the sort of spooky story fourteen-year-olds would tell their friends around a bonfire.  And, however old you are, it will leave you with the same grin you had then.

In “More than a Butterfly” by January Mortimer (issue #13), the only thing Nita seems able to love is long-extinct butterflies due to her one happy memory from her childhood connected with butterflies—probably why she becomes a scientist involved in artificially reviving various species. However, strict regulations and moral critique from the Church are a constant obstacle: her creations must be limited as to lifespan and number. Nita’s husband and child seem to always take second place to her work, but Nita discovers that her family life and her work cannot be completely separated.

“More than a Butterfly” centers on the paradox of “artificial nature,” a theme at the center of much science fiction. The style conveys effectively the stifling atmosphere of a world strictly regulated in which butterflies are perceived as a danger. The initial idea could have been developed interestingly, but the result is a little disappointing. Characterization is mostly sketched, except in the case of the protagonist, who is not a very likeable character. Moreover, the story feels too crammed with elements and is confusing. The style is rich in details, but the plot, at times, displays unexpected and clumsily handled jumps in time.  Secondary characters appear and disappear with little rationale. The disappointment, however, comes mainly from an unfulfilled promise: a potentially interesting idea and the portrayal of a fascinating and original fictional world.

In “Passing Out” by D. J. Muir (issue #14), Mark and Cody have been friends for a long time. They were roommates at the Space Service Academy as well as teammates. Cody was a quarterback, and he used to be very good at making last minute miracle plays. His ability to focus under pressure is exactly what's needed during a space emergency, but this time it may not be enough.

“Passing Out” throws its reader into the midst of events. Memories intrude in the narration of present events: a major and messy crisis in the middle of a galaxy. Unfortunately, what I felt was mostly confusion, and just as I eagerly anticipated some sort of resolution, the story ended.

In "A Brief History of Slip-Time" by Mikal Trimm (issue #15), time stops and starts again for everyone except three people. Each makes a very different use of this power: Jack steals, Lydia takes petty revenges, and Jason averts minor disasters. They don't know each other, but three people with such an extraordinary power cannot live on the same planet and never meet.

"A Brief History of Slip-Time" immediately captures the reader's attention through the surprising use of a fantastic element. Trimm imagines a world in which superpowers are not bestowed on extraordinarily good or evil people. The description of the petty uses of superpowers is handled humorously and humanely, and the author never becomes judgmental. A little slapstick humor only enhances the amusement at human nature and recognition. Plot and characterization are handled harmoniously, and the result is funny and captivating.