I’ve written before about how my love for Science Fiction began. I was young, late elementary to early junior high, and staying at my grandmother’s house in Ardmore, OK (also known as the armpit of the world, at least to a kid with no mode of transportation other than her feet and who was much too far from the library). My grandmother wasn’t much of a reader, something that still amazes me because my dad and most of his siblings were voracious readers.
Anyway, I’d read the dozen or so books my grandmother had and went searching for something to do. Like any self-respecting — and bored — kid, I started poking around in closets and dark corners. Off the kitchen was a bedroom with a closet that had a door that was almost as tall as the room was high. Being an old pier and beam house, and being in need of a lot of tender loving care, the door had warped. Now, that made it a challenge. I pulled and leveraged and finally got the door open and found a treasure trove of books, records, magazines and more.
I don’t know how many hours I spent just going through the books. I found things like early editions of If and other SF/F magazines. That was all it took. My love of Science Fiction was born.
All of that is a roundabout way of saying my first love in SF was short stories. Somewhere along the way, I wandered away from them. Too many I’ve looked at over the last few years have been heavy on message and short of plot or characters I can care about. Not so with the Hugo nominated short story Goodnight Stars by Annie Bellet. (You can download a copy of the story here. It will also be included in the Hugo packet.)
Goodnight Stars, from The End is Now (The Apocalypse Triptych Book 2) (Volume 2), is a lot of ways reminds me of the short stories that used to pull me in and hold me through to the end. Without spoiling anything, at least no big spoilers, this is the story of three friends trying to survive in a world that has changed practically overnight. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an end-of-the-world story where hope isn’t an option. Quite the contrary, hope and determination, friendship and family are themes that run through the story.
But don’t get me wrong. It is also a story that makes you think. Not only did I find myself wondering what I would do — and where I would go — if the Earth was suddenly struck by a cataclysm that threatened life as I knew it but I also wondered what I would do in certain specific situations.
Ms. Bellet has spun a tale that grabbed me and held me throughout the story. I found myself cheering for the lead, Lucita “Lucy” Goodwin. Lucy hates the name Lucita and, like numerous girls in middle school and high school, did whatever it took to look and act like the “blondes”. Growing up with curly red hair at a time when all the cool girls had long, stringy dark hair, I could identify with wanting to blend in. I could also identify with the conflict she’d had with her mother and how, now that she faces the loss of her mother and possibly her father, she wishes she had said and done things differently.
But most of all, I appreciated the fact that, while Lucy didn’t need a guy to rescue her, she also didn’t instantly turn into some superhero. When she had to act to protect those close to her, she did so. But it wasn’t without second thoughts or regrets later. She is scared and brave, suspicious and trusting, loving and distrustful, all at the right times. She is, in other words, human.
My only complaint about this short story is that I liked the characters, and especially Lucy, so much that I want more. I want to know more about them and about how they fare after the story ends. That, to me, is what makes the story successful.
Well done, Ms. Bellet.
I highly recommend this story.