The week’s best online fiction, with recommendations from FictionDaily‘s editors.
“The Transcendence Machine” by Graham Lottering, PULPIT
You know that Tom Waits song “What’s He Building?” Creepy as hell — it describes a man working on some kind of contraption in some dank basement somewhere on the planet. The song is terrifying, mostly because we know that the guy is building something in there and we should be compelled to obsess over what it is. That first part, the building, is what’s gut-wrenching for me. “The Transcendence Machine” is a story about a genius that makes a transcendence machine. We quickly find out what the machine does, and in an interesting little epilogue we feel the feeling of what it’s like to live in a world obsessed with building machines that do things. (Now that I think about it, isn’t the literary world a transcendence machine? The series of interviews we’re doing here at Full Stop about the Situation in American Writing might, in places, testify to a current running through literature now, which is that we either build/are fodder for transcendence machines. The question haunting me like that Tom Waits song is: if a machine is what brings you to transcendence, have you really transcended? The little sniveling suspicious elves in my anxious psyche whisper: no no no no no no…the rest of me is like: what will I read next?) —David Backer
“The World That You Find Yourself A Part Of” by Matt Rittenhouse, Alice Blue Review
Fish out of water. That, today, is our subject. The throes of a creature deprived of its essentials, who finds herself suddenly washed up on a beach of gleaming Orange-Glo’d hardwood and linoleum, those droplets of moisture not the spray of breakers but the watery hiss from an iron – a domestic situation! She’s not drowning yet (to approach this metaphor from another angle), nursing school may well still happen – “The air hasn’t turned to water and your lungs are not being poured into by the weight of its miles above you,” to quote the author – but certainly a pressure is building, some sickness of the spirit (iron setting 5); it can’t be a good sign to be hallucinating whales, right?–Ryan Nelson
“Wine Into Water” by Benjamin Sobieck, Flash Fiction Offensive
In genre, sometimes formula ignites, sometimes formula goes stale, and sometimes formula is made to be broken. In the case of “Wine Into Water,” Benjamin Sobieck shattered the formula of genre storytelling not with a hammer or a scalpel, but with a flaming sword – taking aim at conventional structure, plot progression and prose form, and scattering them into flaming little embers. The brief, searing brilliance of isolated images, adrift on the current of a rough chronology, illustrate this tale of a boy steadily becoming a man on fire. Sobieck is as effective as he is adventurous: Our protagonist’s agony sometimes sears deeper than just the reader’s skin, and its climactic release finds that burn extinguished by sorrow. WINE INTO WATER transforms its genre conventions, its tragic hero and readers’ expectations. Take a sip of this napalm and see if does the same for you.–M. C. Funk