Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday Short Story: Coming Attraction

Fritz Leiber. "Coming Attraction" (1950). 2007.

I've always meant to read some of Fritz Leiber's science fiction. I downloaded this short story from audible, and it definitely whet's my appetite for more. It's a story about coming nuclear destruction, written in 1950 and focused on the Cold War. It's set in post-WWIII New York after nuclear destruction has left people carrying along with future technology among the irradiated ashes.

The focus of the story is on the transformation of American culture; Leiber creats an America in which the women all wear masks because a face free of radiation scars is the ultimate erotic body part. "Coming Attraction" refers to the post-apocalyptic world in which the story takes place, the sense of anticipation our main character feels at the possibility of seeing his date without her mask, and the world of professional wrestling (more like mixed martial arts or UFC fighting) that has become the most popular sport.

This is a really clever story that works on several levels as a commentary on both international politics and gender issues. It's science fiction in that it takes place in an imagined post-apocalyptic future, but it doesn't feel all that distant. It's more about culture than science and Leiber unfolds his prediction of coming attractions slowly throughout the story. I highly recommend this one.

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