Friday, October 1, 2010

Review of "Tourists" by Anna Caro..and today's drabble - a bit of romance

Anna Caro's story "Tourists" (in A Foreign Country) has a lot of the qualities of a short story that I aspire to. The story starts with a great Sci-Fi idea - time travel being used for "disaster tourism", taking tourists back to see disasters happen like the Titanic sinking, great earthquakes etc. From there, Anna draws on two of the characters to give us a great story about people, relationships and our views on death and the afterlife.

There's lots I love about this story - as an example of craft, it's great - Anna gives us enough detail to accept how the time travel happens without burdensome description getting in the way of the story. I was drawn in by the intriging idea and then drawn in by the well-crafted characters to find the story reaching a different level.

It's not a long piece of work - maybe 7 pages - yet Anna makes you think about what tourism is all about, how we relate to "disasters", both from a distance and at a personal level, along with a warm story about three-dimensional characters we come to care about. A teacher of mine once said that the essence of great art is achieving much with little - Anna achieves just that.

I read it at a good time - I'm trying to cut back a story of mine from 13000 words to 5000 - so it's a great reminder that I don't really need all that action-packed description, at least, not in a short story. Time for me to go back, strip back to the core of what the story is about, beef up my characters and get rid of the rubbish. As has been said, writing is re-writing - ain't that the truth?

Today's drabble - a bit of romance, which will make sense mostly to anyone who has had to use the London Underground on a daily basis (around 6 million people a day, apparantly). For those unfamiliar with this marvel of Victorian engineering, there are a lot of very long escalators allowing you to descend to and ascend from the depths of London to get to and from work...maybe we'll call it "Very brief encounter".

You never make eye-contact on the Underground. Except today, riding the escalator up, he does.
A quarter of the way up he touches eyes with a blond woman coming down. She smiles.
He can’t help but smile back. She bites her bottom lip. He looks away for a moment but she is still looking back, and smiling.
They meet in the middle.
They turn their heads and hold the look but then they are past each other.
At the top he looks down.
And she looks up at him.
He rubs his wedding ring, remembers hers and goes to work.

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