Adam-Troy Castro. Her Husband’s Hands. (Lightspeed Magazine #17, October 2011)

Online : here.

Soldiers returning home from war, changed by their experiences in combat, and the difficulties they face in re-establishing themselves back home in normal society and in building relationships with family members and partners who have no comprehension of what they have faced – a well-established trope in fiction, and cinema for decades. And, sadly, there are plenty of documentaries on television highlighting just how difficult it is for maimed combat veterans with multiple limb loss due to IEDs.

So to address this in fiction in 2011, to add something new, is a challenge. But SF has the opportunity to get some distance from where we are now to address issues of identity, and relationship across great expanses of time and space, and indeed, the link between those who remain flesh and blood, and those who embrace a digital future, is a common them in SF.

In Castro’s story, a young wife has her husband returned to her – but all that is left from his combat mission are his hands. However the technology is there for his hands to be linked to his uploaded memory backup, and so this pair of disembodied hands are able to (through the use of a type-pad) to communicate with her, and to try and re-establish a relationship with her.

It sounds like a premise for a gloriously silly pastiche, a homage to cheesy 1960s Twilight Zone stories, but it isn’t, it’s meant to be taken seriously. But the basic premise is simply too incredible to engage with – there is just too much disbelief for this reader to suspend to begin to engage with the characters. Comments on the story do show that other readers had no problem with suspending disbelief, with ‘haunting and moving’ being one response.

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