“Miguel and the Viatura” by Eric Gregory

October 10, 2010 at 4:07 am | Posted in Short Stories | 2 Comments
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This week’s short story club story is “Miguel and the Viatura” by Eric Gregory from Futurismic. The preceding note describes it as a near-future version of “urban vampire” stories (I didn’t realize vampire fiction has subgenres now), but to me it felt like Gregory was taking the ideas of Stephenson’s Diamond Age but writing it in the mode of William Gibson (that is to say, without Stephenson’s satire).

My reaction to the story is similar to how I felt about “A Serpent in the Gears”. That story was steampunk and this one is cyberpunk (or post-cyberpunk, or whatever it’s called this week) but both stories spend almost their entire length on introductions. We are introduced to the titular Miguel and his brother, but, like “Serpent”, the emphasis is on introducing the world. Also like “Serpent”, this story assembles a set of tropes common to its subgenre almost as if it is ticking off boxes: poverty-stricken non-first world setting, telepresence, nanites, environmental problems, evil corporations, and a technofetishist cult, just to name some of the big ones. Like “Serpent” it does a good job with these things, and is in fact tied together with what I thought was somewhat stronger writing, but alas it has a final similarity with “Serpent” in that I found the plot to be incomplete and unsatisfying.

“Serpent” ran into issues with me when it introduced two problems for its characters, a small one I didn’t care about (the mission) and a large one that was more interesting (the reshaped society), then only resolved the former. “Miguel and the Viatura” really is telling a single story about Miguel’s fall from grace, but it just stops. Miguel doesn’t work to redeem himself or hit rock bottom, the two ways most of these stories usually end. He doesn’t even reach any kind of equilibrium in his new circumstances, which probably would have also worked. The story could have ended anywhere in the second half of the story and had the same (small) amount of resolution. The only things we learn at the end–that Miguel’s brother had an ulterior motive in disposing of his parent’s corpse in a soft echo of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and that the police and/or the evil corporation are tracking Miguel–were obvious from the start.

As it is, it feels like a good first chapter to a book, but not a satisfying short story.

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  1. As it is, it feels like a good first chapter to a book, but not a satisfying short story.

    No kidding, that is pretty much the most abrupt (non-)ending of any story I can remember.

  2. [...] on Women and the ClarkeTricia on Women and the ClarkePaul Kincaid on No Boom Today?“Miguel and th… on Short Story Club 2Niall on Women and the ClarkeNick on Women and the ClarkeCheryl [...]


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