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Short story discussions > Nebula Nom: Mama, We are Zhenya, Your Son, by Tom Crosshill

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message 1: by Candiss (new)

Candiss (tantara) | 1207 comments Let's discuss Mama, We are Zhenya, Your Son by Tom Crosshill, nominated in the Short Story category for the 2011 Nebula Awards.


message 2: by Nick (last edited Mar 04, 2012 04:40PM) (new)

Nick (doily) | 966 comments This story was confusing for me. I'm not sure when it's supposed to have happened--will happen--whatever. I guess it's the future since something explodes in Moscow. But it could be a parallel universe -- there have to be parallel universes in the narrative. I think. Maybe I missed something basic.

But I really felt empathy for the main character.


Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides (upsight) | 187 comments I'm not going to pretend to have the physics or theory to really understand or explain it, but having read Anathem and "Schrödinger's Kitten" by George Alec Effinger have allowed me to fake it, I guess. (Actually this story struck me as being kind of a cross between "Schrödinger's Kitten" and Walter Jon Williams's "Daddy's World.")

The many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is what's being depicted here, I think. And Roger Penrose's ideas about quantum consciousness are being referenced.

But yeah, it was a really sad story. As I understood it: (view spoiler)


Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides (upsight) | 187 comments I was poking around on the LightSpeed website and saw that the same issue has an article called The Many Worlds Interpretation Theory: Having Your Cake and Eating it Two, and Three, and Four .... It might be more comprehensible than the Wikipedia entry.


message 5: by Nick (new)

Nick (doily) | 966 comments Snail in Danger (Sid) wrote: "I'm not going to pretend to have the physics or theory to really understand or explain it, but having read Anathem and "Schrödinger's Kitten" by George Alec Effinger h..."

Thanks for the explanation. I read Anathem and liked it a lot, but I'm not sure I see the exact relationship/comparison to this story. I guess it's worth looking at when I get a "Quantum Moment."


message 6: by Nikita (new)

Nikita (nikita42) Yeah, I definitely think a knowledge (if not an understanding) of how quantum mechanics work is a must for this story.

But even if you don't understand it, you definitely feel for the little boy in this story. His loneliness, his need for his mother and his love for his pet dog.


message 7: by Maggie (new)

Maggie K | 298 comments I didnt have the scientific knowledge to understand this either, but the gist of the story, what with the unscrupulous scientist and all, still sends a strong impact.


message 8: by Celia (new)

Celia Stander (celiastander) | 2 comments I don't understand the science either, but really admired the progression of the character from happy boy to something almost unrecognizable, yet he still retained enough compassion for his mother and dead dog.


message 9: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 132 comments I personally think all stories with pet deaths should come with warning stickers. Sigh.
That said, I liked the conceit and the construction of the story and the way the narrator's changes in language signaled changes in his life.


message 10: by Jasmine M (new)

Jasmine M | 19 comments Snail in Danger (Sid) wrote: "I'm not going to pretend to have the physics or theory to really understand or explain it, but having read Anathem and "Schrödinger's Kitten" by George Alec Effinger h..."

well that's how I understood the story as well, I'm glad I didn't have to explain it, it's mind twisting...

in the story two things are mentioned - though misspelled- when I saw them I knew they had some significance so I searched for them, which helped me be more open minded to continue with the story
those two are Tabula rasa & Penrose, I think the two hlped me somehow understand what is going on...


message 11: by Snail in Danger (Sid) (last edited Mar 10, 2012 04:14AM) (new)

Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides (upsight) | 187 comments Yes - although technically I think they were not misspelled, just borrowed into Russian and then transcribed into the Roman alphabet. /pedant


message 12: by Jasmine M (new)

Jasmine M | 19 comments Snail in Danger (Sid) wrote: "Yes - although technically I think they were not misspelled, just borrowed into Russian and then transcribed into the Roman alphabet. /pedant"

um, nope, they are misspelled, I was checking them on google translate, what I was thinking while reading is that the boy spelled the words the way he heard them, there was a ward "qantumikal" I truly thought it might mean something misspelled, but for the life of me I don't know what, I'm not even a native English speaker, and the added Russian expressions could be confusing, any idea what "qantumikal" means?


message 13: by Snail in Danger (Sid) (last edited Mar 10, 2012 07:49AM) (new)

Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides (upsight) | 187 comments Quantumical ... though in English we would generally just say "quantum" I think. (Or he might have been going for "quantum mechanical." Hard to say.)

I looked up Penrose and it's Пенроуз in Russian. (Or Zhenya could be Ukrainian, which renders the last name the same way. I think. I don't really speak either of these languages, I know just enough about the alphabets to get myself in trouble.) Anyway, my point is that Penroz is a reasonable way to use the Roman alphabet to represent how a Russian or Ukrainian speaker would say "Penrose." Ditto for tabyula raza and tabula rasa. /pointless linguistic digression

Or maybe Crosshill was just trying to show that Zhenya was young and didn't know how to spell those words. Could be either. Though as a sometime-descriptivist I prefer the "not misspelled" interpretation. (Okay, now the linguistic digression is really over.)


message 14: by Jasmine M (new)

Jasmine M | 19 comments Snail in Danger (Sid) wrote: maybe Crosshill was just trying to show that Zhenya was young and didn't know how to spell those words"
that's what I was trying to say, probably came out wrong

Quantumical... I thought it would be so, is Quantum physics the one with the "Strings Theory"?..... I think I know as much about physics as I do about psychology ;D
so I'm ignoring both at the moment and say , I liked the narrator, I was hoping for another POV, may be a message from the mother or something, you know... to see things from a different perspective, but it was nice nonetheless


message 15: by Stefan, Group Founder + Moderator (Retired) (new)

Stefan (sraets) | 1667 comments Mod
Interesting story, but I think many people will miss a lot of what's going on because of the limited p.o.v. and the subject matter. Flowers for Algernon worked so well because readers understood what was happening and what was being done to the main character - in this case I think that might not always be the case. I enjoyed this one but I don't think it's up to par with some of the others.


message 16: by Renee (new)

Renee (elenarenee) | 82 comments I am with whom ever said stories with pet deaths should have warnings. I think I must have a sick mind. Kill all the people you want in a story but one animal and I am destroyed


message 17: by Shel, Moderator (new)

Shel (shel99) | 2175 comments Mod
I think I understood this pretty well. How sad! The title had me prepared for an emotional mother/son relationship, but I wouldn't have imagined this. Poor kiddo, poor doggie, and poor mama!


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