“They Had to Move” (short story) by Shimon Adaf
English Publication History: Zion’s Fiction (Mandel Vilar Press, 2018)
Original: Hebrew (2008, unknown)
Translated by Emanuel Lottem, 2018
Synopsis: Aviva and her young brother No’am were living their debilitated mother when their long-lost Aunt Tehila comes to take them under her wing. Aunt Tehila seems to be younger, more beautiful, more graceful than what their memory had imposed, but she does offer haven and, to boot, a library. Aviva’s aunt’s initial library holds little for either herself or No’am until she’s led through a small door into a chamber nestling a collection of old Fantasia 2000 magazines and other oddities, each of which used to belong to her Aunt’s exes. Grasping her locket, Aviva chooses one edition for her brother, who is eager to read more; however, rather than selecting them for himself, No’am insists that Aviva choose for me, by which he is always satisfied. Compounding this with No’am recent troubles with the local boys–not as the victim, but as the culprit of the fights–Aviva decides to follow her brother into the woods, where she discovers something inexplicable, all surrounding her brother’s ghostly assistance.
Analysis: Inspiration isn’t bipolar–it can’t be switched on or off; rather, inspiration is often the timely convergence of place, situation, and mindset.
I was a late-bloomer in terms of reading science fiction. It seems many readers discovered it at a young age and now attach nostalgic feelings to the habit. I, however, picked up reading when I was 25.
Time: April 2006
Place: Gecko Books, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Situation: for want of a long-holiday book
Mindset: reflecting on my similarities to my father
I’ve known since I was a child that my dad reads science fiction. He used to read to me in bed, the cover of one book I strikingly remember but have never been able to find (green, orange, black, and green colors featuring a moonscape and astronaut). He tried to encourage me to read when I was a teenager (Niven and Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer), but I was never inspired to pick it up. I had even bought my dad a few SF books from a secondhand bookstore for his birthday, titles of which I read, found interesting, and bought for him while knowing his favorite authors.
Prior to 2006, I had been reading non-fiction: crime, Buddhism, and philosophy. It wasn’t until 2006 that I found myself in front of similar shelves with similar books wanting something to relax to, but with a need for myself rather than for my dad. I immediately went to Greg Bear–another of my dad’s old favorites from the 1980s–and chose The Forge of God. Boom. Hooked.
Similarly, this short story hold two parallelisms to inspiration. The first: No’am is in the right time, place, and situation to experience his inspiration or sorts. Lonesome and bullied, No’am turns to his stories to find escapism, only to find something more potent and useful. The second: The source of the SF magazines (an actual series of SF magazines produced in Israel’s native language, including original stories and translations of classics). Tehila says it used to belong to one of her ex-lovers (Shi’mon [metafiction: same as the story’s author?]), but the truth of the magazines’ origin is muddied between lovers and magazines, which she loves, keeps, then kills before objectifying the lover/story. This line of parallelism is oddly reflective to what the author probably experienced while growing up, reading SF, and “helped him consolidate his identity as a reader” (285) when he was young. It’s unclear to me who the author is exactly reflected in, but there’s a distinct sense that this is important to the story’s plot.
Review: The familiar yet odd parallelism as mentioned above adds a distinctive feeling to the short story that imbues it with more than a standard plot of a “boy with powers” story, something semi-young-adult-fiction-ish. I wouldn’t take the story at face value; rather, consider what the story would mean to the author. I’ve read a lengthy interview with the author after reading this story, and my impression of the author fit very well with the interview. Thus, if it was the author’s intention to convey his inspiration through science fiction through this very story, it was successful and provided a mental puzzle that intrigues.