association-list a veritable mint for dunning-kruggerands

"My Father's Singularity", by Brenda Cooper

It’s hard for me to tease out what I don’t like here about this story from what I don’t like about its embedded assumptions about humanity, America, and people.

Like someone said a couple of stories ago, I am dog-tired of first-person narratives. I am tired of a lot of things, and this story manages to hit on a lot of them. So if you strip away the science-fiction aspects of the story, you have a slightly sexist and racist reactionary stick-figure of a protagonist worshiping his golden idol of a father because his father loves him less than his dogs. I’d have considered the father-son relationship here a cheap, sentimental trick in a better story. Here, the main character is so warped by this unlikely relationship that he’s effectively emasculated, despite the fact that he has worlds more power than his father in every conceivable way. The only way to make the device more crass would be to move it into 1970s American Male Author daddy-issue territory by having the kid lust after Mona more and have a painful scene in which the kid discovers that his daddy have been ‘comforting’ her in her grief, after her husband died. Suffice it to say that I find the characters unbelievable, schematic, and uninvolving.

The embedded assumptions are maybe going to be less apparent or obnoxious to the non-American people; it might even be West Coast specific. Capitalist/libertarian-oriented, dully US-centric, assuming that each tech boom will be followed by another, the country is better than the city, manual work better than intellectual work, government is evil when not incompetent, etc., etc., so on and so forth. It circumscribes the world declaring that while it might be different, it can never really be better. I am against the golden age, as a human concept. The fact that we all feel it says something about us, rather than something about the world. If the story had been a dissection of this feeling through its blinkered and backwards-looking main character, it might have been something interesting, but it doesn’t even remain unexamined; it seems to be the explicit position of the story.

It could be that I am riding my own hobby horses into someone else’s narrative, and taking these things too seriously, but the fact remains that improvements in the state of the world do have real consequences. To write a story in which the betterment of the lives of billions of people is sidelined by the quotidian drama of the decline of the aged is, in some ways, to entirely miss the point of using a science-fictional setting. No doubt there are issues of taste at the heart of it. Also there’s an election coming up, and that always gets my political juices flowing and my ideological antennae quivering.

Even putting aside the ideological underpinnings of the story, the failures of character would be enough to damn it, all on their own. Prose-wise, it feels under-baked, larded with a few too many stock phrasings.

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