I’ve encountered “Unique Visitors,” by James Patrick Kelly four times now, and each time I’ve had a different reaction.
The first time was on freereads. A voice speaks of the Beverley Hillbillies and television and raccoons. He queries his listeners to see what they know and how many unique visitors he has and how interested they are. The business about counting the unique visitors is amusing in light of blogging and getting all obsessed with statistics. Once the narrator works out when and where he is, he fights back in small ways and gets a small victory. I liked it.
The second time was when I read it out loud to my friends. As the story is all dialog, it’s a lot of fun to read. I really liked it.
But the third time, with Readercon coming, I read it silently. Despite my anticipation, I found the narrator annoying and the jokes fell flat. Without the energy of a good reader, I didn’t like it.
I heard it the fourth time when it was presented as a one-act play at Readercon. That was the best way to “read” it. It was the entire story spoken aloud, with a little bit of stage business to dramatize it. Being part of an audience laughing at the jokes was the best part. I loved it.
I am struck by how many different things come out of what seems a slender story. Or perhaps “flexible “would be a better word. You can see how the interaction between reader and story changes the experience each time. There’s yet another version, a second reading with an audience, available on freereads. I wonde what that one’s like…