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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Breakaway, Backdown by James Patrick Kelly -- Reader’s Guide

Asimov’s June 1996

The story opens “You know, in space nobody wears shoes.

“Well, new temps wear slippers. They make the soles out of that adhesive polymer, griprite or griptite. Sounds like paper ripping when you lift your feet.” How does this description match the narrator? Come up with at least three.

Kelly, the author, does not directly say where the story takes place. Are there enough clues that suggests where? How does that affect the story and narrator?

Cleo, the narrator, equivocates. Why might she do so here: “I had ... have this friend, Elena.”

What about her name, Cleo? How does it fill in some aspects of her character, considering how she reacts at the end?

How does the narrator describe space? Is it all positive, all negative, or a mix?

Why is the narrator using “personas” or imprinting? Look up imprinting.

When talking of her mentor’s theories, Cleo speaks negatively of high heels, yet wears them. What does that tell of such a character?

What does Cleo say the night and space have in common?

Cleo goes on for a page describing the difficulty of exercising in space, but ends saying how she can’t talk about it. Why?

How does Cleo feel about Elena? Use various passages in the text.

After finishing the story, look up any mention of appearances. How does appearance figure into how people choose whether to break away or back down?

After answering these questions, tackle what the narrator means about the heart shrinking in space.

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