Sunday, October 30, 2011

Trying to Stay Dead

Short Story by Richard S. Crawford.
Read for Pseudopod by Steve Anderson

Medicine mixed with philosophy has led to the procedure to remove one's sense of self. The vast majority of the human population have become philosophical zombies, and are happy about it, rather they claim they're happy about it. It's a nice idea but it doesn't really go anywhere. It reminds me of a thought experiment more than a piece of horror fiction.

I did enjoy the author's use of changes in POV to indicate self-awareness/lack-of-self. That was easily the most fun and exciting part of the story to me. But stylistic tricks can't support a story on their own, even if they are good and even if the story is founded on good ideas. I still found it a tad dull. I'm glad it gave me something to think about, but it didn't really scare me or make me feel much of anything. Mainly because the narrator was a whiny little bitch, as the woman toward the end points out. He just wants to be happy and stop existing, he doesn't have much in the way of fear or regrets or drives or anything. He's almost a zombie in the first place, so the change isn't that severe. I'd probably have liked the story better if there was more self-awareness in the protagonist to start with, or if he'd had regrets, or if it was indicated that at least someone did.

2.5 ontological mutations out of 5.

An earlier version of the story was published on the author's website in 2008, but the Pseudopod version is better written, not to mention the narration makes the stylistic trickery of the story work better.

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