Eric Schlich’s newly-published collection of eight short-stories, Quantum Convention, is a scientific thought experiment populated by characters of all ages and stages, contemplating reality and the various alternatives each decision creates.
- Quantum Convention is the title story and in this narrative, we meet Colin, husband to Jane who is eager for them to start a family although the stress of trying to conceive and the threat it all poses to Colin’s other artistic dreams has him contemplating the decisions he’s made that have led him to this life and the quantum possibilities he has turned down. In fact, Colin isn’t sure where he is now on the spectrum of “For Better or For Worse”. This story was a nerdy look at romance and the characteristics that define a person and what he/she is when separated them from those phases of identity.
- The Keener revolves around a group of orphan girls who are paid to cry at funerals, but their own desperate circumstances invites the reader to also lament for them. Their keeper tells them a story of a disfigured woman whose healing is a blessing and a curse where to enjoy the miraculous blessing also invokes the wrath of the curse so the story is a cynical exploration of the duality of those experiences.
- The third story Not Nobody, Not Nohow, is a juxtaposition of actors in real life versus their roles and the effect of make believe in real life..In this one, a woman leaves her teaching job to be become an actress and plays the part of the witch in the Wizard of Oz and tries to explain to her son how movies work. There is also a young boy who plays dress up and is ridiculed for it because he wears a female costume. Meanwhile, we see the hierarchical differences in how she is treated versus how the young starlet Judy Garland is treated, but also it compares the normalcy of Maggie’s life versus the compromises Judy has to make for her fame.
- Lucidity describes one man’s wistful dreams of the life he no longer has now that he has lost his son and wife. He attends a dream conference but instead of trying to understand how to stop his recurring dreams, he seems to want to lose himself in them, and he writes them down to extend their range into his waking hours as well.
- The main character in Night Thieves is Lyssa, a ten year old pastor’s daughter who struggles to reconcile her own questions about God with the religion with the doctrines espoused by her father, her brother’s explanation of the choice between good and evil, and the anticipated rapture and what it will mean for those who leave and those left behind. Here, Schlich offers a juvenile discourse on a very adult theme by showing how discussions that often leaves adults quaking, impacts children as well.
- Merlin Lives Next Door is probably the story that delves most into the otherworld with the neighbor veering in and out of the time and space limitations of the story which resembles the title story in that there are multiple versions of the same character, this time, each of the manifestations reflects a different time, showing the main character his past and inevitable future. Something about this story is at once disturbing and calming, as the main character interacts with the past that he has held on to and the future he cannot change.
- Journal of a Cyclops is the first person narrative of Owen James Pollup, a thirteen year old boy who was born with a single eye in the middle of his forehead, recording his life at his doctor’s request. It is a weirdly voyeuristic look at the boy’s disability and his struggle to escape being different, alternating between hiding himself and wanting to share the same experiences. The big question in this story is whether the people who keep him shielded or those who expose him, which one is villain.
- Lipless is about an almost 30-year-old newlywed couple, Kara and her husband Marcus, who gets invited to the wedding of the college roommate he was once in love with. The invitation is an unwelcome reminder of Marcus’ earlier projections of his life and how his relationship with Devin, the former roommate, also created an alternate identity that wouldn’t otherwise have happened. In many ways, this story is very similar to the title story but with a different resolution, which just goes to reinforce the idea of quantum possibilities – how many ways can you use the same story setup but end it on a different note?
Overall, the stories in Quantum Convention delve into powerful themes and the author achieves a pretty cynical look at the complexities of human relationships, and the struggle to be one thing or another, how we often have to choose an identity even when we are forced to suppress other parts of our psyche. With eight short stories that were easy to read but also layered enough to provoke discussion, I recommend this for fans who like a little science or psychology in their fiction, especially those who are already interested in multiverse theories.
- Title: Quantum Convention
- Author: Eric Schlich
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 192
- Publication Date: November 15, 2018
I read an electronic copy of Quantum Convention courtesy of Netgalley. Thank you to the publishers for allowing me the opportunity to try out this galley proof. All opinions expressed above are my own.
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