This history of the world is relayed as a bedtime story from a man to his great-granddaughter. She knows it as the story of the things their “an-ces-tors did wrong, an’ what our future is.”
Annoyed, the great-grandfather tells the story in four short sentences. The little girl prefers the longer version with Adam and Eve and trees, though she says nothing.
The narrator has told the reader things the characters can’t know, setting things into a broader perspective.
In his story comments, author Liam Hogan, says this story is the result of an “impossible story prompt,” that is, to write a 300-400 apocalyptic tale. This makes sense. It has the feel, not of haste—it is too complex for that—but of something with a single point. It reads like an extended-one liner. Unfortunately, the point is something most readers have heard ad nauseam. And this is a bedtime story?
I don’t say this is a bad yarn. It’s just a little preachy, and the reader knows where it’s going from the first paragraph. At the same time, one can’t help but feel a little for the old man and for the little girl who thinks “what the ancestors did wrong” is a bedtime story.
According his blurb, Hogan is based in London and is an Oxford Physics graduate. His short story, “Ana,” appears in Best of British Science Fiction 2016. Another short story, “The Dance of a Thousand Cuts,” will appear in Best of British Fantasy 2018.
The story can be read here.
Title: “The History of the World in Four Sentences”
Author: Liam Hogan
First published: Daily Science Fiction, May 6, 2019