Every time I read a short fiction piece by Samuel R. Delany I have to expand my idea of range. Not just in the ways in which science fiction can aim a lens at people—though, to be clear, that too—but in what a writer can accomplish in the space of a single piece of short fiction.
Because holy hell, “The Hermit of Houston.”
There is so much going on in this story, which is ambiguously set in a future not too far from now, given the name-dropping of things like Facebook and Trump and the like, but everything has gotten twisted. Delaney takes some satirical pot-shots at many different facets of today, with humour, snark, and—I think—more than a little bit of frustration and anger, and the end result is a story I read then immediately re-read.
“The Hermit of Houston,” is the story of a life, yes, but a life aimed, controlled, bordered in, and planned. His past has been edited, what information he has is, at best, suspect, despite him working in what passes for a library these days. And the revelations, tucked between misdirections and purposeful ignorances, gave me these little moments of shock between the humour and satire. The world building, done so wildly and with those brilliant little turns of phrase or dropped mentions of contemporary thought or culture, was freaking amazing, especially with Delany’s sharp (and somewhat ruthless) twists.
I’m really enjoying all the stories selected for The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018, but I have a feeling this story is going to be the jewel in the crown, as it were.