Full disclosure: I am a complete and utter sci-fi nerd. Give me Star Trek. Give me LeGuin. Give me 2001: A Space Odyssey. Give me anything that is not of this planet/ space-time continuum-related/full of stars. So when I first came across Neil Clark’s small, and even smaller, sci-fi inflected flashes, I was hooked.
Time. Wow. from Back Patio Press, Clark’s cosmic collection, does not disappoint.
These tiny stories are massive and galactic, but at the same time grounded in the realities and banalities of everyday life. In fact, this dichotomy is the essential ingredient in his narratives. What starts as an innocuous date mini-golfing in “A Date Without Small Talk” expands into the furthest reaches of the universe, retracting once more with humorous bathos:
I waited for you to message back. I waited and I waited. I waited more. I waited longer than it takes for the universe to expand and collapse and then expand again until the moment we first met. I waited for so long that I now have a definitive answer to your question: No.
This expansiveness continues, especially in his tiniest stories. Lines like “[e]arth became a giant teardrop streaming down the cheek of a sobbing universe” (“The More The World Got Damaged (The More You Cried)”) and “[t]he cellar down here is full of disused stars, old gravity and musty time, all coated in layers of moon dust” do more than just us wow us with their poetic turns; they catapult us further into story/character/conceit.
And then there is “Skyscraper Head”: my favorite of this collection. I’m not going to tell you anything about this story because the telling may disrupt the
You will have to read it yourself.
Order Time. Wow.: https://backpatiopress.bigcartel.com/product/time-wow-pre-order
Jonathan Cardew’s stories, interviews, and articles appear or are forthcoming in Atticus Review, Flash, JMWW, People Holding, Smokelong Quarterly, and Segue, among others. He is the Microviews Editor at Bending Genres and he teaches at MATC in Milwaukee. He was a finalist in this year’s Queen’s Ferry Press Best Small Fictions. More at his website: https://jonathancardew.wordpress.com/.