Today, my recap/review/blurbstravaganza of the many amazing stories and pieces of art in Selfies from the End of the World continues. There's a good batch to show off today, and I hope you like them as much as I do.
First up for Part 2 is Matthew R. Davis's Happy at the End, a story about Happy, her best friend Stephen, and their last night together on a doomed Earth. While this story shows a deft hand with tone, recognizing the mundane in the devastating, the need for normalcy in the face of the unthinkable, and while it shines with the natural, clever dialogue between the easy friends at the center of its narrative, I'm not a big fan of some of the End of the World tropes it peddles in. Ultimately, I was much happier inhabiting the platonic space between the two friends than shuffling through Stephen's unrequited crush or any of the other baggage that follows young virgins around when the world ends.
An Impromptu Guide to Finding Your Soulmate at a Party on the Last Night of the World, by Caroline M. Yoachim, is another of this collection's bite-sized gems. Ostensibly a numbered list meant as the titular guide written by lonely Logan Lewis in the midst of a devastating alien invasion, the story plays irreverently with its form to characterize the strange and quirky Logan while the reader comes to understand his journey and his fate through his increasingly odd list entries.
The second piece of art in the collection, by Luke Spooner, like the first, draws the viewer in with what seems like a familiar premise before a more careful examination exposes the twist. My first look at this piece puts me in mind of sci-fi horror classics like Alien, showcasing a kick-ass woman opposite a couple of frightening sci-fi ghouls. But on closer inspection, one of the ghouls is armored and piloted by a humanoid form, bringing additional mysteries and intrigue to the apparent interstellar conflict.
The Last Real Man, by Nathan Crowder, a snapshot of one man's quest to survive the Hipster Apocalypse, was a story I did not want to like at first. While I harbor no special love for the hipster set, I knew that a single amusing conceit wasn't going to be enough to hold a story together. There are only so many jokes about organic food I can take, after all. Luckily for me, and for anyone else who reads this, the story is not even close to a one-trick pony. I don't want to spoil the rather delicious surprise that transforms this tale so I'll say no more, except that you might just want to read this one, too.
Next up is the creepy tale of a world where a deadly force known as the Silence takes people's voices and free will from them while offering language, sentience, and the capacity for revenge to the animals around them. When Joshua shows up in a new town with his pet worm Betty in tow in The Silence and the Worm, by Samuel Marzioli, it's no mystery where the story is headed. After all, a man would need to be foolish to keep a pet in this new world, however harmless they seem. How that story unfolds, what questions about the Silence are answered, and how Joshua deals with the predicament he's rather thoroughly gotten himself into, though, is what makes this a story that will burrow itself deep in the back your brain.
The Men on Eldama Ravine, by B. T. Joy, lets us into the head of Jaclyn Maise, an obstetrician at a missionary hospital in Kenya when a devastating pathogen wipes out nearly everyone in the world. Alone with the handful of babies who survived with her in the hospital's neonatal unit, Jaclyn must confront the difficult decisions one must necessarily face when the mouths outstrip the food, while slowly unraveling the mysteries of who on Earth could have engineered the pathogen that destroyed the human race and who on Earth those men who just began to show up outside the hospital are.
Last up today is Dusty Wallace's Not Even a Whimper, which gives us a world that ends not with a bang, but, well, as you might imagine, not with a whimper either. Another wonderful story that manages to reduce the end of the world to the troubles of a single family, a generous couple living alone on their North Carolina farm who take in a man who claims to be a scientist and who claims that Irvin and Janice Murphy's farm will be the last place to ever exist. It's the Irvins' humanity, which prevails at every turn, that drives this story, rather than the inevitable loss of everything around them, and that focus on the people, their kindness, their relationship, and their faith as opposed to, say, on their fear, makes this story another real winner in the collection.
If you want to find out more about some of these writers or their work, you can check out Matthew R. Davis at his website, Caroline Yoachim at hers, and Luke Spooner at his. Nathan Crowder exists online at http://www.nathancrowder.com, where you can get some insight into how he came up with and wrote "The Last Real Man," and on Twitter at @NateCrowder. You can also find Samuel Marzioli at his website, and B. T. Joy at his website or his Tumblr. Follow Dusty Wallace at @CosmicDustMite on Twitter.