Literally Stories have had picks by a bunch of lovely editors, let’s also have a bunch of picks from an unloved editor. Before I go on I just want to clarify, I’m not picking the ones already picked, which are all great.
Unfortunately to choose one is to disregard another. My lovely better half comes from Belgium where they have a saying: To choose is to lose. It’s why their Food Menus are endlessly long and why the food arrives with an uplifting pep talk; Better luck next time, Brussels sprout.
I’m rambling on, so let me take the advice from the boy with the snotty nose which is: Start with the picking!
The funny and twisted story with a satirical/social impact goes home well with me and Dave is an expert. Hell is not what it seems; the MC found his way to a bar in Belfast where he plays cards with a bunch of ruffians as well as his father. Just like the ending, I wish I could be in that hell, even though the Devil, Hitler, Charlton Heston, Stalin and Jack the Ripper are there. Perhaps I’ll avoid the game Soggy Biscuit though. Hell is where all interesting people are, which those who read Dante’s The Divine Comedy can attest to. Would you be divine with a bunch of former popes or hang out with Homer, Caesar, Odysseus, Virgil, Electra, Aristotle, Plato, Socrates and Cicero? I would go for hell. Actually I would play dice with Caesar to try to get him to say it. ‘What is the dice again, Caesar?” Unlike the modern-era characters in this story (Hitler and gang), those characters aren’t alive, both figuratively and literally. In this story the characters talk and play cards. The satirical background of placing Charlton Heston there – his biggest sin, according to me, is chairman of the NRA – puts more political depth behind this story. This story is funny and creative. The only thing I wish would be different is: I wish I thought of it.
This story especially appealed to me. I have actually a degree in finance (could you believe it?) so much of the criticisms of Data directly spoke to me. This story is very relevant even to those not in the field. The recent financial crisis/crash surely influenced this story. Trust is easily given to markets, too easily. What is the value in taking a loan based on speculation? Speculation is not real value, yet you can still take out a loan based on market prices of your assets. The importance of the story’s lessons, delivered with a dark humor, cannot be overstated. Not only does Scott David have something to say about financial institutions, trust in algorithms and markets, but in loyalty, family and of course the trust we place in them.
First of all, let me deal with the elephant in the room, which usually is me in any given room, but this time it is my pick of Shrodinger’s Choice by Hugh Cron, a fellow editor. Am I conducting neppotism? Is this just an editor stroking another editor’s back? Am I even spelling nepotism correctly? The positive thing is: he can’t pick my stories since he already had his pick of stories, which does exclude the reciprocating angle. Instead of arguing the stroking (and all jokes that go along with that) let me tell you why I chose it.
Hugh plays with format. Not just in this one, but in almost all of his stories (tip: check out The Hobby). The title, Shrodinger’s Choice, conjures thoughts of either boxes or cats. It is the former which is important in this story. The father conducts a social experiment, which he lets the son in on. A poor or a homeless person needs to stay in a room, climb up and collect his/hers envelope of a thousand pounds. That’s it. Or is it? There is also a hunting knife worth two hundred pounds. Fifty poor people in a room with knives; either they all go home with 1.2 thousand and or one goes home with 60 thousand. The ending suggests the outcome. Hugh has a habit of delivering an uncomfortable point which stays with the reader. For this reason it is one of my picks.
Header photograph: By Xpolj42 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons