Short Stories 366:141 — “Charity™,” by Derek Newman-Stille

coverNothing Without Us as an anthology whole declares bluntly in the opening that there is one kind of content that isn’t included: inspiration porn. In the hands of the authors, the stories range through styles, and deliver all manner of genres. Then, with  “Charity™,” Derek Newman-Stille takes the whole notion of inspiration porn and nudges it in a speculative fiction direction into a place and time nowhere near far enough from where we currently stand, and it’s a brilliant story.

We meet a man who is an artist, who lost his leg, and who is made to perform a particular role at an official fundraiser where he cannot wear his custom prosthetic, but instead must draw on the sympathy (not empathy) of the wealthy to convince them to take part in Charity™, where they’ll donate to the cause (that being the upkeep of the disabled people present), after the Charity™ officials take their cut, of course. And then the artist hits a wall.

The worldbuilding here from Newman-Stille is chillingly believable, a corporate replacement of social networks that are already not doing anywhere near enough, and the result being all the worse for those who need accommodation. Through this single artist, and his handler, we see just how broken almost everything in this world has become, but most importantly—and this comes up again and again in Nothing Without Us—the artist himself? He remains unbroken. And while it’s not necessarily an immediately hopeful tale, it’s not resignation, either, but the balance achieved by those who don’t give up.

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