Buicks, Aliens & Schrödinger’s Cat
We dip into the weird parts of science fiction for this week’s Cabinet: it’s Schrödinger’s cat in all its glory. Is your girlfriend alive or dead? Does the pond have a bottom or is it a portal to elsewhere? Is the being on the other side of the doorway friend or foe? Unfortunately (or fortunately) we won’t know the outcome until we look (results may vary, of course). Stretch your mind with these quantum fancies, and don’t forget that seeing isn’t always believing…sometimes, believing is seeing.
A Review of “The Knobby Giraffe” by Rudy Rucker at Lightspeed Magazine
I focus on dead Shirley Chen. I’m running on automatic, with a chain of syllogisms pouring forth from the monad that is me. That shiny egg I birthed—obviously I should open it. With a single motion of my will, I form a hatchet in my hand. My cosmic, ten-symbol Monadrule is engraved on one side of the blade.
I slam the hatchet into the egg. It splits open; and, yes, something’s inside. The parameter known as secretcode. It doesn’t look like a number, or like a point in Hilbert space. It—no, she—looks like a foot-high, cream-colored giraffe with rust-colored spots. Her spots bulge out like knobs. Her head is—odd. A blank, eyeless bulb with a hole in one side.
There’s physics, and then there’s physics. Visit the “softer” side of science and fall into the weird that is quantum mechanics. Explore the power of the mind — maybe all those yogis are on to something, after all. But, as Irit discovers, bending reality with brain power carries some hefty responsibility. Can she put to right what her cosmic influence has wronged? Should she?
Rucker’s tale demands a little extra mental aerobics to wrap your brain around the strange, but I think it’s a healthy workout. Let it serve as a reminder that the bizarre isn’t comfortably confined to the humanities…it’s everywhere — including inside egg-birthed miniature giraffes, meditative MRIs and even the tightest physics thesis.
Read it HERE
A Review of “Left the Century to Sit Unmoved” by Sarah Pinsker at Strange Horizons Magazine
I can’t say what happens when the pond takes a person. Only what we’ve all seen. Someone climbs the waterfall, pushes off the wall. The same way we all do. Same arc, same splash, but they never surface. There’s no struggle, no roiling water, no sign anything was disturbed. A swimsuit will come floating up, which is why the old joke that the pond doesn’t like synthetic fabrics. And we never see that friend/sibling/mother again. I’ve seen it happen twice with my own eyes. Kendra and Grant, both from my homeroom.
The bottom has been dredged at various points, once at my mother’s request and my family’s expense. People have gone in with scuba gear. They found a rubber boot, a bicycle, a picnic table. House keys and cell phones and car keys, though not Nick’s. No bodies, no bones, no brothers.
Shay jumps because she doesn’t understand. She knows there are dozens of reasons for people to take the leap. She jumps because she belongs. She jumps because her brother did. Explore with her what it’s like to see the us and the them, to see the in and out. Use the cool, clear depths to discover meaning — if you can.
Pinsker invites us into another dead-or-alive mystery. She asks what happens to people, and to things (like a Buick Century) when they’re gone. Join Shay in her attempt to discover (or uncover) where these things go. Maybe you’ll find what you’re looking for at the bottom of the pond. Maybe you’ll find it beyond.
Read it HERE
A Review of “Ye Highlands and Ye Lowlands” by Seanan McGuire at Uncanny Magazine
A few people murmured, disappointed by what seemed to be an enormous, if alien, animal. Earl motioned for them to be quiet. The alien kept waving its stubby little legs. The light kept flashing. And then, in a slow crawl across the bottom of the screen, came the sentence that changed the world:
“What do you mean, ‘hello’?”
The room exploded again. This time, Earl couldn’t get us back under control. He barely even tried. We had discovered an alien world; we had discovered alien life; we had done it all, and history was going to remember our names.
Things have consequences.
Drum up the band — we did it! We made the Stargate. We made first contact — and our otherwordly new best buds just want to help us out. It’s a radiant day for science. Minus the withering contagion that turns your body to dust. Should have double-checked that whole universal translator thing…
McGuire drops us right into the reality of a sci-fi novel, chock full of all the hubris of innocence. Remember, this tale seems to say, that even as we tease about our shortcomings, there’s a whole universe of what we don’t know. Contemporary and filled with pop-culture relevance, it’s a beautifully (tragically) bizarre first encounter.
Read it HERE