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Lost Places: and Other Stories

de Sarah Pinsker

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7013385,952 (4.05)12
A half-remembered children's TV show. A hotel that shouldn't exist. A mysterious ballad. A living flag. Nebula and Hugo Award-winning author Sarah Pinsker's second collection brings together a seemingly eclectic group of stories that unite behind certain themes: her touchstones of music and memory are joined by stories about secret subversions and hidden messages in art. Her stories span and transcend genre labels, looking for the truth in strange situations from possible futures to impossible pasts.… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 13 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
Esta resenha foi escrita no âmbito dos Primeiros Resenhistas do LibraryThing.
I love a short story collection like one that Sarah Pinsker delivers -- when it is sci-fi/fantasy/speculative, these stories can go anywhere, do anything, limited by nothing. Usually, the only problem I end up with some of these stories is that they aren't long enough to reward me with the full, rich detail that I wish for as a greedy reader. The ideas are so good, but the stories are sometimes a few pages, so you are really only getting the idea. Again, this could be a perfect story for the WRITER, with the intent of planting that idea in the reader's head, but yep, greedy reader here. Most of these actually seem complete to me, but also so compelling that I wish there were more to them! At the same time, it's why I love speculative short stories - that they can contain unique ideas without needing to be an entire novel. The stories here are immediately engaging and immersive, chock full of great out-there scenarios. On a sentence level, very rich and detailed. For example, Douglas Fairbanks shooting a man with an arrow from atop a building in NYC (really happened) -- but Pinsker giving this real event a spin of her own. One story reads like it's a website with comments of fans analyzing the lyrics of a mysterious old ballad. I'm a huge fan of Pinsker's first collection 'Sooner Or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea', and with this collection, I can add a few more favorite stories to the pile. I think both of these collections aren't to be missed if you like speculative and weird short stories. I know I will be reading whatever words Sarah Pinsker throws out into the world and I will also definitely check out her music soon. ( )
  booklove2 | Nov 18, 2023 |
This is Sarah Pinsker's second short-story collection.

My favorite here is 2022 Hugo & Nebula winner "Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather", which takes the form of an entry on the fictional website LyricSplainer. A small collection of regulars have met there to dissect the eponymous song, an old English ballad, Child 313 (note there are actually just 305 Child Ballads), variations of which have been covered by such folk luminaries as Steeleye Span and Windhollow Faire. As the discussion proceeds by means of notes, web links, and snarky comments, we realize that, even in modern times, it's not wise to look too closely into witchy doings in the English countryside.

Or maybe my fave is the magical-realist "I Frequently Hear Music in the Very Heart of Noise." Pinsker starts in 1924 with George Gershwin working on "Rhapsody in Blue", and expands her story to embrace all of the musicians and artists associated with New York City in the 20th Century, and the hotels they lived and partied in, and the ballrooms where they played the music and the studios where they painted the canvases all somehow coming together on one ecstatic night, in one ballroom: people whose lives never overlapped digging the music together. Also there's a bit on mathematician David Hilbert's infinite-hotel paradox, plus a woman pianist named Bess Morris, (whom I think Pinsker made up) whose composition is at the center of it all.

The remaining ten stories are all excellent and imaginative. A woman learns unexpected things about her past from old videocassettes of a creepy children's show. A rural pond is a popular spot for diving - even though sometimes the divers disappear, never to come up. A boy is hired to read aloud the intertitles of silent movies in a theater.

Several stories are dystopias in which the possibility of hope or escape or resistance appears. Is this what kids these days call hopepunk? A nice change, perhaps, from the darker stories I read.

Definitely looking up more of her books. ( )
  dukedom_enough | Oct 15, 2023 |
Stories that, at least in one case reminded me of both The WIckerman and The Ballad of Beta-2. Strange vibes of the immanence of the uncanny and sometimes the uncan is fully opened. ( )
  quondame | Jun 27, 2023 |
Sarah Pinsker is my favorite contemporary writer of short sf&f, so I was excited to pick up Lost Places, her new collection. It contains twelve stories, a couple of which I've read before, but most of which were new to me. Eleven were published in various venues, including some obscure (to me, anyway) anthologies, plus there's "Science Facts!", which is original to this collection.

One can sense Pinsker pushing herself here: in her first collection, Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea, there were a number of long-form, character-focused pieces, with strong prose but otherwise told in what you might call a conventional style, like "In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind," "The Narwhal," "Wind Will Rove," "And Then There Were (N-One)," "Our Lady of the Open Road," and "Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea." Sure, there were a number of pieces that were more experimental in tone and format, but they were sprinkled throughout the collection. Lost Places has more of those experimental pieces, fewer of those conventional narratives. Most notable is "I Frequently Hear Music in the Very Heart of the Noise," a sort of free-association jazz-induced fever dream about a fictional musician peppered with appearances by all sort of real residents of Jazz-Age New York City. I'm not sure I quite got this one, but I enjoyed the experience of reading it regardless and am certain I will come back to it someday.

But there's also "Left the Century to Sit Unmoved," about a weird swimming hole that occasionally swallows people up and "Remember This for Me," about an amnesiac artist trying to prepare a retrospective exhibition of her life. I can't say that they all worked for me, but I appreciated that Pinsker is clearly pushing herself. I did really like "A Better Way of Saying," which was my favorite piece in the collection, about a young Jewish boy who discovers a magic power than he can only use in very specific circumstances. Like much of Pinsker's work, it engages with the power of art and storytelling itself: in this case, cinema and journalism and their power to remake the world.

Two stories are low-key horror transmitted via media itself. The first is "Two Truths and a Lie," about a woman who discovers she was once a child participant on a weird local television program she had totally forgotten about; the second is "Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather," about an English folk ballad about a man whose heart is literally stolen by his lover, only the story is in the form of commenters on  a lyrics website trying to analyze the story. They sort of engage with what you might call the "creepypasta" genre, but are both more interesting and clever than that.

Four stories are structured somewhat similarly in a way that I found frustrating. "Our Flag Was Still There," "Everything Is Closed Today," "Escape from Caring Seasons," and "The Mountains His Crown" all begin very promisingly. "Our Flag Was Still There" is about people who act as human flags in a future America. "Everything Is Closed" is a prescient vision of the COVID lockdowns; published in 2019, it posits a world where a series of terrorist attacks have closed most places, so everyone has nowhere to go—and many people are therefore unemployed and at loose ends. (Many communications networks are down, so people can't take solace in the Internet as we did in the real world.) The main character, a part-time librarian, teaches a group of local girls to skate and so inadvertently begins to create a network of resistance. "Escape from Caring Seasons" is a strong piece of "if this goes on—" storytelling, about algorithms that have more say in medical care for the elderly than human beings; it follows a woman making a desperate escape from the residential community she designed as all its features are weaponized against her. "The Mountains His Crown" is set in some kind of future world or on a space colony, where an emperor is imposing his top-down will on what crops local farmers must grow. All four are well-told and engaging... and come to a stop at the moment the main characters decide on an act of resistance.

I found this acceptable once, but once it became a pattern, I became frustrated. How did these acts of resistance play out? The decision having been made, what were the consequences? What came of the flag who chose to speak up? How did the skater girls organize? Did the algorithms get revised? Did the farmers face repercussions from the emperor? It felt like kind of a cop out: resistance to the large structures that govern our lives can often feel hard to imagine. It's easy to write sf that just gives a moment of hope, but I think it can do more, it can show us how that hope might play out in practice. It's easy to say "oh a better world is possible" but what sf can do is demonstrate how through hard work that better world can come into being. Somewhat amusingly, a character in the collection's final story, "Science Facts!", summed up my discontent: "That isn't an ending. [...] That's where the story begins. A good story would go on from there to tell us what they all did next." That isn't to say these aren't good stories. But I did feel like Pinsker was holding herself back somewhat when there was another story to be told. (I guess I'm saying I want the skater girls novels? I am given to understand, though, that "Everything Is Closed" takes place in the world of her first novel, A Song for a New Day, which I haven't yet read.).

I didn't mean to touch on every story, but find that I almost have, so I'll discuss the last two to complete the set. "The Court Magician" is a dark, well-told fantasy story; like many of Pinsker's fantasies, it's about power and its dangers. Other than "Better of Way of Saying," though my favorite story in the collection was the final one, "Science Facts!" It's told in the collective first person by a group of preteen girl scouts (though not, seemingly, Girl Scouts) on a backpacking trip. Like some of Pinsker's work, the sfnal element is slight and comes into the story late, but effective in the way it sews up the themes of the story and connects everything together. A great evocation of the power of camping, the dangers of wilderness, the social dynamics of preteens, and the strangeness of the plant world.

Pinsker has written, according to ISFDB, over fifty works of short fiction. Between this volume and her first collection, I don't think even half of it has been collected yet. I look forward to more collections of it... and some day a magisterial set of The Complete Short Fiction of Sarah Pinsker hardcovers, surely?
  Stevil2001 | May 19, 2023 |
Esta resenha foi escrita no âmbito dos Primeiros Resenhistas do LibraryThing.
I loved this collection. Every story zings. It begins with a hook and it keeps on hooking you sentence after sentence. These stories both entertained me and made me think. What better reading experience is there? Sarah Pinsker is the worthy inheritor of sci-fi's golden age. Her speculative stories are redemptive and in some places scattered with hope and that's amazing and rare. Pinsker is a new author for me and I"ll be looking to read more of her work. ( )
  poingu | Apr 9, 2023 |
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A half-remembered children's TV show. A hotel that shouldn't exist. A mysterious ballad. A living flag. Nebula and Hugo Award-winning author Sarah Pinsker's second collection brings together a seemingly eclectic group of stories that unite behind certain themes: her touchstones of music and memory are joined by stories about secret subversions and hidden messages in art. Her stories span and transcend genre labels, looking for the truth in strange situations from possible futures to impossible pasts.

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