As I’ve said a number of times, it’s always interesting to see what stories catch in readers’ imaginations. “An Important Failure”— Clarkesworld August 2020– seems to be one of them. So far it’s collected attention from a few quarters. It’s been acquired by the Polish magazine Nowa Fantastyka for translation (it should appear later this year). It’ll be in Jonathan Strahan’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 2.
And, finally, it found its way onto the Aurora Awards ballot in the novelette/novella category– this is a Canadian speculative fiction prize administered by the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association, so someone in the CSFFA must have liked it. In fact, if you’re a member of the CSFFA, you can vote for it, too.
I wonder what it is about the story. That it’s about adjusting to straitened circumstances as the world shuts down around us? That it’s about creation in the face of climate change? Maybe because it’s full of longing & fear for the woods, and none of us could go anywhere much this year.
All three reasons? None and something else I can’t identify. Once again, I’m just grateful that people want to read it.
2 thoughts on “More about “An Important Failure””
Possibly this positive attention has something to do with the fact that it is beautifully written and is full of quiet resonance.
As the foreign fiction editor from “Nowa Fantastyka” who came upon this story and immediately said “oh wow, I want to translate this!” I think what I loved most was the contrast between our civilization slowly devolving into chaos, with so much loss and sadness, and the timeless preciousness of art, which ultimately proves very fragile (how many living people will be able to appreciate the beautiful tones of the Nepenthe violin?), and yet enduring (the violin will open up and acquire its best tones long after its maker and its first owner are dead). That, and the symbolism of “Nepenthe” reaching back into antiquity (Mason probably doesn’t know the mythological connotations of the name; I think Eddie does), adding yet another layer to this poignant mix of pessimism and hope. And the cathartic ending.