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Old 03-02-2016, 07:11 PM View Post #1 (Link) The Last Dinosaur by Lavine Tidhar
Keladry (Offline)
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One of my favorite online magazines is Shimmerzine. I've just finished reading a beautiful piece called "The Last Dinosaur" by Lavine Tidhar. I hope you read it before you read my response, for risk of spoilers.

The thing is, Shimmerzine publishes speculative fiction, so you know going in that there will be elements of the supernatural, of science fiction or fantasy or horror, and you also know going in that it will be very unlike typical genre stories. That's the point. But usually there's still some element of plot, some sense of storyline. I'm not even sure whether "The Last Dinosaur" counts as a story, except that I suppose it must.

It describes a girl, who I imagine to be very much like me, going for a drive in an old car.A dinosaur of an old car. At some point, we discover that it's the last car, and that the gas for it is the last gas that exists. She looks out the window and daydreams, and when the gas runs out, she gets out of the car.

That's it! That's all that happens! A young woman gets in a car, goes for a drive, and then gets out of the car. But somehow the entire thing is beautiful, and I wish I had the ability to illustrate a story like Tidhar does. There is depth but no character arch. Mina, the main character, is reminded of her grandmother and parents, but though she misses them and the fact that she is now alone is sadly evident, the only sadness we see is old and the general tone is happy. If anything at all, there is nostalgia, and hardly even that as her mind wanders.

Like any brilliant short story, there are multiple ways to read it. What if this actually takes place in modern time, and she's only daydreaming that she is the last? The unrealistic presence of the reporters toward the end would lend itself well to existing only as a daydream. But even if that's true, that isn't the story being told. The story is told as if it is really happening, and I think there is a sense of magic at work when we can accept the fact that the reporters are truly there, and that her car truly holds the last petrol on Earth. I love the magic in this story, I love the imagery, I love the implications of our impact on the Earth and the ignorance of the people and how, amidst Shimmerzine's other stories of loss and horror and monsters, Mina is truly happy throughout the entire piece.

But as much as I love it, I don't get it. I finished reading and it was a lovely ending, no qualms about that, but I don't get how there could be this whole story where nothing happened. Mina didn't run over anything. Mina didn't reach the petrol station only to realize to her disappointment that there was no gas left. Mina's grandmother died long before the "story" started. There are plot points we could read into the story-- why is Mina alone? Does Mina have a job, and why isn't she working?-- but again, those aren't worries that were written into the story, and they didn't occur to me as I was actually reading. It's like after I finished, my mind had to invent some obstacle that she overcame in order to justify it.

The last time I remember reading a fully composed, completed work of fiction where nothing happened, it was The Trial by Franz Kafka and I hated it. It is a full length book that discusses this man who is accused of a crime (we never find out what crime) and has to do things to be found not guilty (we never figure out what things he has to do) and then the story is over. And even in that case, he actually talks to people, and people die, so at least there is something happening, almost. (Our English teacher wanted us to write a plot diagram for it. We told her no thanks.)

In the end, I'm left with this wiggle in my head because of course you can write beautiful fiction with no plot. Of course you can write a story that is almost like a poem with all of its implications and interpretations, and still have no character development. It's a very valid thing to do. But I still have the wiggle in my head because even though of course you can do all those things, people don't. And maybe more of them should.
Definitely let me know if you'd like a critique--- I'd love to.
						Last edited by Keladry; 03-02-2016 at 07:13 PM.
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