A to Z Challenge: J is for “Jeszcze jeden bohater” (“One More Hero”)

JFor today’s A to Z Challenge I have another title in Polish language, a short story by Robert M. Wegner. Please bear with me, tomorrow I’ll be back to more English-friendly reads.

Robert M. Wegner is one of the rising stars of Polish speculative fiction and is most well-known for his epic fantasy (often compared to Erikson’s series), but he doesn’t shy away from science-fiction, like the short story I’ll be writing about: “Jeszcze jeden bohater” (”One more hero”) published in the anthology “Herosi” (“Heroes”).

The story is set on an unspecified planet where humanity is fighting against the enemy so alien, they can hardly defend from it, let alone make any contact. They are supported by automated war machines, and each of them has a personality of a famous warrior from the past implemented.

The aliens’ “maghosts” can cause delusions and psychosis, so when their attack comes, the soldiers take “dumbifiers”, but those who for any reason can’t receive drugs, can rely on priest and nuns to get them through attack with the power of prayers and meditation.

The story starts when sister Weronika Amanda Redglove, famous for having saved many people, arrives to help a wounded soldier through a maghost attack, but things quickly go astray, and as the two hide in a bunker, not sure if they’ll survive, the sister gets to both question herself and her past, and discover who she really is. The twist revealing her true nature is more than rewarding, and leads to a moving ending carrying a message of one’s strength and sacrifice for others.

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Cover of the anthology in which “Jeszcze jeden bohater” was published.

The biggest power of Wegner’s storytelling isn’t even his great worldbuilding or good style, but the ability to elicit emotions in the reader. To move them, to get involved, to start thinking, because even with the epic flare, his stories are still stories of people, of their fears, lives, emotions. Still, the author doesn’t overdo it, and even drops bits of well-weighted humor to relieve the tension, though his grip on the reader never lets go.

“Jeszcze jeden bohater” won Janusz A. Zajdel Award (Polish equivalent of Hugo Awards, though awarded only for novels and short stories) for the best short story of 2012, and in my humble opinion it definitely deserved such recognition. It reminded me how powerful short stories can be. It doesn’t take a hundred thousand words to move readers and leave a longing impression on them.

And what about you? Do you read short stories? Do you like this literary form? And, of course, do you have a favorites ones?

4 thoughts on “A to Z Challenge: J is for “Jeszcze jeden bohater” (“One More Hero”)”

  1. I have great respect for short story writers and I have both written and read them. I personally think writing a good short story is far harder than writing a novel. These days, however, I prefer to get completely absorbed in a longer piece of fiction – and I’m also very picky. Far too many short stories start off enjoyably and then have a miserably unsatisfactory ending, leaving me annoyed. But that probably says more about my intolerance as a reader than the form itself!

    1. Oh, I agree with you, that many of the short stories don’t deliver. That’s why I don’t read as many as I used to, though I still try writing some.
      What I like about them is that they’re word morsels: just enough for a lunch break, a commute, or a long wait at the doctor.

  2. I feel I might enjoy this anthology. I used to avoid short stories but as I am struggling with writing them myself (my personal challenge this year) and sometimes failing miserably I am appreciating them more and more.

    1. Would I compile you a list of worthy reads? 😉
      You’ve already read Ted Chiang, so it doesn’t get much better, but I could recommend some reads. 🙂

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