“Movement”, by Nancy Fulda

 

Read it here.

2012 Hugo nominee – short story

2012 Nebula nominee – short story

A story this short and with such a non-descript title is in danger of being overlooked before it is even read. Much like when reading poetry the reader has to make a conscious effort to devote the time and space to focus on the story to make sure he is giving it the proper attention.  With these conditions, however, this story is very rewarding and thought-provoking.  Told from the point of view of teenager Hannah, who is afflicted with “temporal autism”, a greatly heightened sense of the passage of time, Fulda goes for several different points from the opening, drawing the reader in immediately so that you’re engaged in the story right away.  First is the ongoing debate over whether “curing” things like autism is good for the patient or not, in this story, from several years in the future, it’s a potential experimental treatment with no guarantee of success that Hannah’s parents are considering.  This will make her “normal”, but at the cost of taking away her special ability and perception of reality.  This ties into the next point, that the technology we use as a means of either escapism or controlling our environment are in fact artificial means of achieving what something like autism may already be doing, perceiving the world in a heightened, specialized and personal way that may be hard for others to understand.  This includes not just virtual games and social media, but the hilarious example of Hannah’s own father, who wears a laser-equipped mosquito zapper, which the mosquitos have already evolved to avoid, such that it mostly now only annihilates dust mites.  And while this arms race of greater immersion in virtual cognition has its detractors, such as Hannah’s grandparents who long for the simpler time when kids all played together around one tv game console, Hannah also finds solace in dancing, which has not fundamentally changed, and yet is different every time she does it.  Fulda takes substantial scientific and moral essay questions and encapsulates them succinctly in her characters and their thoughts and interactions, all in a couple of thousand words, really an impressive piece of work.

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