These days I don’t have as much time and energy for reading (or many other things) as I’d like. My cravings for SFF, then, have been in large part fed by listening to SFF Audio’s Reading, Short and Deep podcast series. Hosts Jesse and Eric discuss (and sometimes read) a variety of short, public domain works. Though I’ve listened to episodes on stories by Robert E. Howard, Jack Vance, the Bros. Grimm, Lovecraft, Poe, etc, I’ve also been introduced to a number of writers I hadn’t yet heard of or read.
One such is C. M. Kornbluth, writer of “The Words of Guru.” Kornbluth holds several things in common with Howard. He wrote from a young age, he died young (at 34), and he produced an impressive amount of output.
“The Words of Guru,” published in Stirring Science Stories in 1941 is a dark fantasy tale, full of references to Christianity if not delivering an outright Christian message. Kornbluth’s narration is simple, conversation, and almost dreamy. In a way it reminds me of Bradbury, or of my cohort Kaiju‘s writing style.
Most of the time I listen to Reading, Short and Deep, listen to the piece and/or analysis and move on. It’s kind of funny, as I used to joke with a friend of mine about his thick air quote “reading” of audiobooks. But this Guru story sounded so intriguing, I had a look at the site’s pdf version. The story is quite short, and it packs quite a wallop.
The protagonist is a strange boy, intelligent (but not necessarily wise and certainly not moral) far beyond his years. He learned to speak as an infant. One day he encountered a figment named Guru, who began to teach him special words. Powerful, terrible words. Until…
I think this is a great example of how to effectively and impactfully wield the short form.