"Threads" by Jessica Reisman: An Appreciation by Bradley Denton
The three things I like best about it:
1) It's an honest-to-god science-fiction story. So many things with that label are either science fiction with no real story, or a story with no real science fiction . . . or, even more often, neither. But "Threads" is a real story (a really good story, at that) that depends on some real gosh-wow SF to make it work.
2) It does something different with the science-fictional-artist sub-sub-genre. There've been a lot of stories about artists who use science-fictional technology to produce works of art--but almost all of these stories feature the artists themselves as protagonists. "Threads," in contrast, features a protagonist who isn't an artist herself, but who is profoundly affected when she experiences an artist's creation. And that puts "Threads" above most of the other tales in the sub-sub-genre . . . because it acknowledges the fact that the reactions of people who didn't create the art is the whole point of art in the first place. After all, creating a work of art is often deadly-dull drudgery (and should be). But encountering the completed work should be transcendent. And "Threads" does a great job of illuminating that.
3) The protagonist of "Threads" at first appears to be an easily recognized sf archetype--the future bounty hunter who carries a high-tech weapon and Always Gets Her Target, yet somehow finds a soft spot in her heart for her latest target and switches her allegiance in order to protect him/her. But Reisman puts an important twist on that archetype: It's not her target, per se, that Grit decides she has to save: It's his skill. His art. In other words, it's not who he is that matters to her--it's what he can do. After all, if she can save that, then other artists will ultimately be able to create similar works of art. So more and more transcendence-inducing threads will be replicated and saved . . . and eventually, everyone everywhere will have access to a greater measure of freedom and wonder. (Plus, this way, Grit can still fulfill her contract and get paid!)
Bottom line: Very cool story.
And the wonderful thing about fiction writing, as an art, is that even two years after a story appears, someone can read it for the first time and finish it thinking, "That was very cool indeed . . . "
Link to story.