Re: Recalculating

Unlike Stross’s “Palimpsest,” I can understand why “Recalculating,” by Tina Connolly uses second person. Like  “Directions,” the story is told by a GPS system, giving such directions as:

Show them your spinach and the guard will let you in.

The GPS is helping an unseen auditor, who is looking for a girl. I like that the sentience of the GPS includes notes of self-interest. I enjoy the cheap laughs at Cinnabons and Body Shops and Nordstrom’s sinking under the waves. I like filling in the details as the quest progresses and the GPS recalculates the next direction to take you.

Here the second person works because there’s no other way a GPS could tell a story. The GPS is a character in the story and the “you” it addresses is another character in the story. You the reader are just along for the ride.

You could object this isn’t really second person, but the Scheherazade voice telling a tale to stave off the axe-man. Real second person is something like “Button Bin“, which demands that you become intimate with the story and then proceeds to violate you. As for “Palimpsest”, you could argue that the opening passage in second person invites you to come inside its world, where the premise is that we are living in one of thousands of doomed civilizations, and when it falls Stasis will pluck up the survivors and sow them in a distant age. But I see it that way only looking back on the story after reading it; while I was reading it, the passages in second person felt like an experiment that didn’t work for me and I don’t know what might have made it work.

Writing in second person is weird. You should try it some time.