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“Cassandra” by Ken Liu

“Cassandra” by Ken Liu 

I read this story in “The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror 2016” edited by Paula Guran.  Originally published in Clarkesworld Magazine. 
You can read this story free for here: http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/liu_03_15/ 

This is a story about what is good vs. what is bad (evil).  It’s also a superhero story, albeit not your normal run of the mill.  It looks at perspective and how it shapes our views of life and society. 

The story is narrated by the anti-superhero (or the superhero) depending on your perspective.  Ken Liu explores how just a little bit of a different view can dramatically change the entire perspective of the situation.  Glass half full, glass half empty, type stuff.   

The narrator’s name is Cassandra.  She talks about a superhero crime fighter, faster than a speeding bullet, etc., with a big S on his chest.  She calls him “’S’howboat”.  He loves to show off for the cameras and talk about himself. 

Cassandra one day discovers she too has a super power that she never experienced before.  She can touch a spot previously touched by someone else, and see their future.  However, only the bad futures seem to be shown when it works. 

Cassandra attempts to tell Showboat about her new-found ability.  She hopes Showboat will investigate what she has foreseen and put a stop to the crime.  She ends up being disappointed when he returns to tell her everything looks good and that she doesn’t actually have the power to see the future.  She tries to argue that no one thought what he did was possible until he showed up, but he refused to believe her.  That’s when she decides to take matters into her own hands. 

Cassandra starts to refine her ablity and get better with it.  She starts to use it for “good” by killing people to stop crimes before they happen.  She sees her actions as a good superhero because she is stopping future crimes from happening.  Even though she is killing “innocent” people in the process because they technically haven’t committed the crimes yet. 

This is where Showboat and Cassandra clash.  This is where perspective come into play.  Depending on what side of the coin they are on, is their cup half full, or half empty?  Showboat knows she is behind the “crimes” she is committing, but she is staying one step ahead of him.  It’s a game of who is right and who is wrong.  Or are they both right?

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