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Lets Talk About: Human Resources

G D Penman By G D Penman Published on February 5, 2016

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I don’t tend to review short fiction very often. In fact the only time I really do it at all is when it is presented as a collection with the whole publication providing some overall theme. The flash fiction story “Human Resources,” by Erica L. Satifka is an exception, and exceptional, for several reasons.

The first reason for this review is slightly altruistic, Fireside Fiction who published the story have been doing exceptional things in the world of publication for a few years now and are currently in the throes of crowd-funding their next year of content. So reviewing this story gives people who aren’t aware of it the opportunity to see what is happening over at Fireside Fiction. As an added incentive, if enough people back their new year then they will be able to hire Daniel Jose Older as a guest editor and I would love to have a rejection letter from him.

The second reason is slightly more self-serving because this story perfectly illustrates some of the points I was touching on in my last article about the art of writing, specifically the things that it is possible to do with flash fiction that would lose all of their punch in a longer piece of fiction.

Before you get to my comments, hop on over to Fireside Fiction and have a read of the story, it is under a thousand words and the actual reading of it should only take a few minutes out of your day.


Of course that won’t be the end of the time that “Human Resources” spends in your head. Just when you think you have forgotten about it the story will pop back up.

It does exactly what a flash fiction story should do, it gives you the bare details that you need to understand the setting and characters and then it lets the story play out. The subject matter isn’t anything new, Larry Niven was playing with the same ideas forty years ago but what has changed since then is the approach to writing. This story is effective because of its emotional punch.

The horror of the situation is amplified by having the narrator compromised by what has happened to her to the degree that she cannot understand what is happening to her. She cares about her friend, she recognises her own situation and her responses to everything are both simple and profound.

Extending the story into something larger would take away from that potency, the more time we spent with the characters the more the purity of their actions and responses would become muddied with external influences.

When writing fiction we are told to focus on the most interesting part of our main character’s life and while the older school of scifi writers would have put the emphasis on the point of change, when the character is first compromised, Satifka understands that impairment does not end a person’s story and that the change from “normal” to “other” isn’t what speculative fiction should emphasise so much as the events in a life after change and all of the possibilities that entails.

Go read it and be haunted.

G.D. Penman writes about queer monsters for a living. He is the author of Call Your Steel, The Year of the Knife, Heart of Winter, Apocrypha and many other books. He is also a full-time freelance ... Show More

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