“Departing and Arriving”

by Sue Burke: short fiction

This story isn’t about departing, it’s about arriving. That’s not obvious at first, though.

As the story opens, a young woman gets into a car and drives off. She leaves people standing in front of her former home: her family, a crowd of friends, and a dog. They wave, the dog barks, everyone calls goodbye and grins madly – even the ones hiding tears.

The young woman had been direly ill, bedridden and convalescent for years, her survival not guaranteed. Early on, she started to think about travel, a dream that might or might not come true, but it was the only future she wanted to imagine.

Whenever she could, she sat in bed or on a sofa and talked to anyone, sometimes just to the dog, about travel. They shared stories, fantasies, wishes, Youtube videos, travelogs, books, souvenirs, and photos. Her friends even invited their friends just back from trips to come talk to her, since she was always delighted to hear every detail, and they always left feeling happy.

This went on for years. Once she even exchanged a few emails with an astronaut orbiting the Earth.

Slowly, her health improved. She remembered everything she’d been told, waited for relapses, planned carefully, stared hard into her future, and finally the day came when she took to the road, her dreams fulfilled – and the dreams of her family and friends. She had reached the end of the journey she really wanted to take, arriving at the best possible destination, health.

That’s the story. The only one sad at the end is the dog, who had always hoped to come along on the next journey with her.

Suddenly, I saw the solution…

towel rackThis is the towel bar in the guest bathroom of my apartment.

It looks okay, but it’s not really practical. Those curvy little points at the ends of the hooks dig into anything hung on them.

I was sitting and looking at it last week, trying to think of a way to make it useful, when suddenly I realized what was wrong — and how to solve the problem.

The towel rack was installed upside down.

I’ll be at two Volumes Bookcafe events in October

Deep Dish October 2019The Speculative Literature Foundation’s October 3 Deep Dish SF/F reading in Chicago will feature Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Jane Rosenberg Laforge, and Scott Huggins. The Rapid Fire Readers that evening will be me, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Jeremy John, and Anaea Lay. I’ll read an essay about a key difference between literary fiction and science fiction.

The readings will start at 7 p.m. at Volumes Bookcafe, 1474 N. Milwaukee Ave. Volumes offers snacks and beverages, including wine, beer, coffee, and soft drinks. And it sells lots of fine books and gifts.

More information is at the Volumes website and the Facebook event.

I’ll also be at Volumes at 7 p.m. on Thursday, October 24, to launch the novel Interference, the sequel to Semiosis.

More information is at the Volumes website and the Facebook event.

You’ll be very welcome at either or both evenings!

Interference launch Volumes

The crap you don’t mind

ddb 373-06-scanMy late friend Suzanne Allés Blom, author of the novel Inca among other works, had a theory about why books are categorized as science fiction, romance, thriller, Western, literary, etc.

As you know, Sturgeon’s Law says that 90% of everything is crap; that is, most science fiction, romance, thrillers, Westerns, and literary fiction, etc. (along with movies, poetry, comics, you name it) simply isn’t great stuff.

But 10% of it is great. Sue thought that pretty much all of us would like the best of anything. I agree. I prefer speculative fiction, but now and then I read the best in Westerns, romance, thrillers, literary fiction, etc., and I enjoy it.

I also read a lot of speculative fiction that’s not in the top 10%, and I enjoy that, too. I can tolerate speculative crap, although romantic or literary crap sets my teeth on edge.

Sue believed that’s why there are categories. They help lead us to the shelves where we will probably enjoy most of what we pick up. Categories don’t exist just to help marketers know how to sell a book and to tell booksellers where to put it. Categories exist to protect us readers from the wrong kind of crap.

Photo of Sue Blom by David Dyer-Bennet at the 1976 Midamerican Convention.