Bewildering Stories

The Critics’ Corner

Michael J A Tyzuk writes about...

Gareth Jones’ “Fluctuations”

I have to say that I liked the overall concept of the story. A group of particle physicists inadvertantly create a tear in the fabric of reality. As a result you can’t tell from one moment to the next whether you’re actually experiencing what you should be experiencing, or you’re caught up in the tear.

It’s an interesting concept, and one that I don’t recall seeing done before. Leastwise, not quite in this way. Arthur C. Clarke once said that there are no truly original concepts left in science fiction; if there were, he would have done them by now. For the most part I tend to agree, but every now and again I see a new take on an old concept and I think that’s pretty cool in and of itself.

The writing style is fluid, although the various reality shifts and the changes they cause in personal perception were a little jarring in spots. However, given the nature of the story I don’t think that this is a bad thing. In fact, I would probably be worried were this not the case.

Having said that, though, I did find myself somewhat confused by the various changes in the gender of the narrator throughout the story. That confusion was pretty well settled by the end, but it was there nonetheless, and I’m probably not the only person who is going to take note of it. As I said, though, that kind of shifting is essentially integral to the story, so it really isn’t anything to get twisted into a knot over.

Personally, I think that if you can’t manage to wrap your brain around what’s going on, then you’re missing out.

Personally, I think that Gareth has a bright future if he keeps writing like this, and it’s my pleasure to welcome him to the Bewildering Stories family. Well done!

Copyright © 2005 by Michael J A Tyzuk

Don continues the conversation...

Quite in agreement with your appreciation of “Fluctuations,” Mike. As you say, the confusions of gender — along with so many other things — are central to the story. Gareth Jones even slips in a sly joke about the traveler’s reaction to alternating between woman and man.

As the traveler, Adelle, approaches her goal, reality becomes increasingly changeable. My question: how does the author accomplish that? The story, short as it is, has an exceedingly intricate plot involving the countryside, village, backpack, traveler, and, ultimately, the well. In effect we see a slide show where each picture shows in succession the same general object in starkly contrasting conditions and colors; cows become sheep, the village is crowded and then deserted, etc. And the “reality bomb,” as I call it, has implied limitations in time. It causes details to change but keeps the substance intact; for example, no geological upheavals take place.

A writer can learn some clever techniques from this story. To do that, he’ll probably need to list all the reality changes and note how they’re introduced. “Fluctuations” well repays study, but we’ll need a microscope to do it properly.


Copyright © 2005 by Don Webb for Bewildering Stories

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