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The Ray-Gun: A Love Story by James Alan Gardner

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“The Ray-Gun: A Love Story” is a 2008 science fiction novelette by James Alan Gardner. It is about an unpopular teenage boy who finds an alien ray gun in the forest.

Non-Spoiler Summary In A Nutshell:

A ray gun!As fourteen year old Jack is walking home from school one day he sees the ray gun in the bottom of a small crater. Once he learns what it is he decides to keep knowledge of it a secret and begin a rigorous training program in case the original owners ever come looking for it. That proves to be a pivotal idea as Jack works out not only his body but his brain as well. Well, there seems to be some positive side effects to working out – like getting a girl friend and doing well in school – that is until the secret begins controlling his life!

The gun seized Jack’s attention, but he didn’t know what it was. Its design was too alien to be recognized as a weapon. Its metal was blackened but not black, as if it had once been another color but had finished that phase of its existence. Its pistol-butt was bulbous, the size of a tennis ball. Its barrel, as long as Jack’s hand, was straight but its surface had dozens of nubs like a briarwood cane. The gun’s trigger was a protruding blister you squeezed till it popped. A hard metal cap could slide over the blister to prevent the gun from firing accidentally, but the safety was off; it had been off for centuries, ever since the fight on the starship.

The alien captain who once owned the weapon might have considered it beautiful, but to human eyes, the gun resembled a dirty wet stick with a lump on one end. Jack might have walked by without giving it a second look if it hadn’t been lying in a scorched crater. But it was.

My Two Cents:

• The good:

  • I loved all the references to Spider-Man and The Lord of the Rings, and how they worked so well with this story. Very cool!
  • Like the title implies this really is a love story. I don’t think I’ve ever read a romantic science fiction story and enjoyed it as much as this one. Really well done!
  • The ending of “The Ray-Gun: A Love Story” was really quite nifty – it was totally fun to see how things all came together.

• The bad:

  • The story telling style was a little bit different with its “simplistic narrator” point of view. But after the first part of the story I eventually got used to it and it didn’t really bother me any more.
  • Even though “The Ray-Gun: A Love Story” starts out with young teenagers, it isn’t really a story for kids.

Fact Sheet:
• Page Count: 15
• Word Count: 9,266
“The Ray-Gun: A Love Story” garnered the following awards:

  • It was nominated for the 2009 Nebula Award for Best Novelette.

Where you can find “The Ray-Gun: A Love Story”:

  • This novelette first appeared in the February 2008 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction.
  • You can read a free online version of “The Ray-Gun: A Love Story” at the web site.

Some Interesting Links:

  • Did you know that James Alan Gardner has a Master’s degrees in Applied Mathematics? Yep. You can learn more about this science fiction author by reading the Wikipedia page about him.
  • If you liked this story be sure to check out James Alan Gardner’s collection of stories entitled Gravity Wells: Speculative Fiction Stories .
  • Special thanks to SF Signal for recommending this great story.

Craving More Stories?
If you enjoyed this story then you might also like But I Had No Body, about a doctor who implants a tiny computer into the brain of a traumatized patient and how it alters his personality, by Russ Colson.