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Forkpoints: Short Fiction

by Sheila Finch

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One of our imperatives as humans is to communicate–with others, with animals, and eventually with aliens. Here, in Forkpoints, you will find stories of unlikely people–scientists and street people, athletes and musicians, the very old and the arrogant teen–meeting and connecting with others not like them at all. Another major interest of Finch’s is what Robert Frost called “the road not taken,” that haunting sense we all have from time to time that maybe there were other paths we should have explored, other doorways we should have passed through, forkpoints where our choices changed our lives forever. Science Fiction shows us many fantastic inventions that may come in the future, other worlds, other beings. But, even then, people will still be people, loving, making families, worrying about trifles, dealing with crises, making life-changing decisions as best they can.

Advance Praise

“Good reading for our hard times. These are stories of opportunities unseen, glimpsed, suddenly brought into focus—maybe to slip away, or be refused, or maybe just delayed. There’s a gentleness to them, a melancholy, that sets off the glints of new possibilities and hope. The last story gives us a child’s-eye view of the Blitz so clear and detailed—readers who loved Michael Ondaatje’s Warlight should have a look here.”
 —Suzy McKee Charnas, author of The Holdfast Chronicles and The Vampire Tapestry

“Sheila Finch is one of the treasures of modern science fiction. She’s literate, imaginative, and deeply insightful. Her contributions to the field include not only specific, awesomely good works, but her careful attention to how language shapes story structure and flow. Her short fiction works are like polished gemstones, with each facet reflecting and informing the central theme. Here is a collection of such jewels, each speaking to the profound transformative power of human understanding. We are more than our circumstances, these stories say, we have the ability to shift our perspective, to look and feel more deeply, and thereby to shift entire realities. From an elderly music teacher who could also have been an iconic physicist to an extraordinary communication across species to a time-traveler visiting his own ancestor during the World War II London bombings, each tale reaches deep into the mind of the reader, inviting us with Finch’s characteristically gentle wisdom to see the universe and ourselves in a revolutionary light.”
 —Deborah Ross, author of Collaborators and The Seven-Petaled Shield fantasy series

Reviews

Nebula Award winner Finch (Reading the Bones) delivers an impressive, career-spanning collection celebrating the power a single decision holds to change the shape of the world. Some of the 12 stories focus in on those pivotal moments; the gripping “Not This Tide” leaps between the inexplicable supernatural experiences of a girl and her father in WWII England, and the year 2035, in which the now-elderly woman is a renowned world peace activist. Others place the fateful decision in the background and chart the consequences, like the wistful “The Old Man and C,” which imagines a world where Albert Einstein followed his talent for violin instead of physics. Fans of Finch’s Xenolinguist stories will enjoy encountering the author at her lyrical best in “Sequoia Dreams,” about alien visitors who have a profound ecological message to convey, and “Czerny at Midnight,” in which a marine biologist’s autistic son communicates with an octopus through music. Though pieces like “Forkpoints” and “Where Two or Three” are weakened by plentiful hints that there are better stories happening in the background, this collection as a whole is delightfully cohesive and thought-provoking. It’s a showcase of a legend at her finest.  
  —Publishers Weekly, April 2022

Finch is a writer possessed of a long and well-regarded career, with her Xenolinguist Guild tales perhaps carrying the most prominence these days. At the age of eighty-six, she has attained the well-deserved status of an elder statesperson while remaining commendably active (the selections in this volume appeared between 1989 and 2021, with a majority from the twenty-first century). Her fiction exhibits the core narrative strategies, tone, and concerns of classic mid-century science fiction while remaining utterly au courant. In other words, you could host her or her tales comfortably in the same room with Poul Anderson and Harry Harrison—or in the same room with Sarah Pinsker and Sam Miller.... The stated theme of Finch’s book—”choices that change lives forever”—is almost a formula for any and all fiction, and need not be given too much heft. No point in trying to cram these varied, distinctive, and memorable tales into a thematic cubbyhole. Just revel in their brio and craft, and hope that Finch continues writing for many years ahead.   (Read the whole review)
  —Locus, Paul Di Filippo, June 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-61976-218-3 (13 digit)
Publication Date: Jun 2022
paperback 336 pages