The ED SF Project

The Ellen Datlow/SCI FICTION Project, that is. We're showing the love for five and a half years of great short fiction, and we need your help! We've got over 300 stories to cover, so if you're a person who loves short speculative fiction, we want you. Go here to read the list and add your voice.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

"Articles of a Personal Nature" by Deborah Coates: An Appreciation by Stephanie Burgis

Deborah Coates's Articles of a Personal Nature is a story about the hidden gaps of alienation lurking within even the closest relationships. It's also a story that uses the canine-human tracking partnership as a powerful metaphor for the search for personal connection.

When I volunteered to write an appreciation of this story, I did so based on the warmth I felt when I remembered it, even though many of the details of the plot and characters had faded from my mind since first reading it. What I remembered was the beauty of the final scene--not exactly who said or did what, but that perfect evocation of transcendence, that fleeting but amazing feeling of having established a connection of total intimacy. When I sat down to re-read the story, I found myself teary-eyed at the end again . . . and so grateful that I'd had the motivation and opportunity to re-experience this piece, one of my favorites that SCI FICTION published.

Tommy and his partner Sarah were always very different people, but their relationship somehow managed to work anyway. Then one day, after being experimented on by her company, Sarah disappeared, sucked into what Tommy thinks must have been an alternate universe or black hole. Now, seven years later, she's suddenly reappeared . . . and deeply unfamiliar. But did he ever really know her?

Just as Sarah and her dogs work to track hidden scents across difficult, confusing landscapes, Tommy must work to trace the remnants of their broken relationship, searching for any way to put it back together. The truths exposed in his search are brutally honest...which makes the ending, with its tentative, fragile offer of hope, all the more emotionally rewarding.

A beautiful, beautifully written story. I’m so glad to have read it again.

Link to story.


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