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Shorts: Straconia

It’s an interesting Alice in Wonderland meets suburbia tale as a man finds himself trapped in an alternate reality. The story examines what it means to be stuck in a life you don’t wish to live, and the consequences of staying around in a place you don’t belong. It’s a great read, remaining zanny and thought-provoking at the same time.


Jack Skillingstead
Asimov’s Science Fiction
July/August 2018


Frank is a man with an average American life, working at a factory and coming home late to his wife every night. When she starts to disappear, he decides to follow her, ending up inside a diner in a town he’s never seen, trying to talk to his wife who no longer remembers him. He becomes trapped in the town, moving through the justice system and escaping each step, only to be sent to the next. In the end, he finds himself a free man still trapped, and we’re left with a glimmer of a plan and no hard conclusion.


Frank is constantly trying to get home and never succeeding, just finding himself deeper and deeper in Straconia. He’s a run of the mill guy who got trapped in his life and can’t admit that he’s unhappy and doesn’t belong in his boring suburban life. He doesn’t understand what he’s done to land here, even after it’s explained why most people end up here. He keeps going, trying to get back home without making any real changes.


Frank finds himself in the alternate reality town of Straconia. It’s pretty average, if not a bit rundown everywhere you look, but most interesting is the convoluted justice system that picks up people for the most random infractions. Nobody knows the rules and everyone is susceptible. There are three levels, each worse than the next. Level 1 makes people sort through lost things from the world, requiring them to serve a sentence of sorting equal to their crime. Level 2 sends them to ‘Segregation,’ where they sit unguarded in a prison, walking around in circles, eating, and doing nothing else. Level 3 sends them to solitary confinement in a dark building with no exits. Definitely an adult version of Alice in Wonderland without the wonder part.


Alternate Reality, Justice System, Suburbia

Photo by Dani King on Unsplash

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