Section: Reactionaries and Revolutionares
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 3/5 Rating
A short psychological thriller.
About the author:
David Langford is a British writer, editor, and critic, mostly known for his work in the science fiction field. He publishes the science fiction fanzine and newsletter Ansible. In addition to several novels, he has written many short stories, including parodies and other works of dark humor. He has won the Hugo Award more than twenty-five times and has also received much recognition as an editor, writer, and speaker. This story was first published in 1981 in the anthology A Spadeful of Spacetime, edited by Fred Saberhagen.
Another extremely short story; but also another extremely captivating story. Time-travel is at a minimum – bare bones – but the main character more than made up for that with his narcissism. I guess you could technically call this a political thriller; I thought of it more as a psychological thriller.
Harman and Ferris are four days away from the presidential election and are on TV for a live debate. While Ferris is dripping like a leaky faucet with sweat, Harman could not be calmer. Why is this? Because he knows all eyes are on him. Not eyes of the current viewers; science has developed a new tool that allows them detect eyes – the watchers – from the future. The number of eyes on Harman has been increasing as elections draws near. The only question is why?
I’ll give it you straight: plot is not a strong point. You what was? The suspense. This was a tense and nerve racking read, that slowly and steadily kept building up that feeling that something was about to happen. With plot lacking, how is that accomplished? By Langford’s writing.
The whole scope of the story is Harman sitting in front of the camera, and then him riding home, and then going to bed – all in 3 page. But what the story focuses on is Harman’s thoughts. This is what I found to be the greatest strength of the short story: Langford was able to beautifully capture the feeling of just how superior and destined for greatness that Harman feels because the eyes are on him. But because we also don’t know why these eyes are him, as the reader, you start to see him as almost delusional and most definitely narcissistic. This caused me keep asking a number of questing that all circles around one main though: are the eyes watching because he will be a great president, or because he won’t… maybe it because something horrific is actually going to happen to him?
Maybe the only thing that bothered me was we never go into detail about the eyes of the watchers from the future, or what this tool/gadget science has created for us to know about this information. Not knowing about the watcher does help to add mystery – so I’m okay with that – but I would have liked to learn about the gadget more. That is probably just me though because I always like to learn about the science with technology. Sadly for me though, I didn’t see anywhere that information could have been put in, without changing what the story is about: which was Harman.
Spolierific Speculations: (Highlight to read)
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I didn’t think there was anything here that made me say “WOW!”, but for what this story is and focuses on, it does it great. It’s extremely short, but for that short time of me reading it, I was 100% focused on the story at hand. Because of how well written the suspense was – the thoughts of Harman and mystery behind the eyes – I would completely say giving one a read.
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See you next Thursday for Firewatchby Connie Willis