“Twenty-Three Snapshots of San Francisco” — Seth Lindberg

Seth Lindberg’s short fiction has appeared in the anthologies Phantom, Denying Death, The Darker Side, Brainbox, Brainbox II, Haunting the Dead, Jack Haringa Must Die!, Jigsaw Nation, and in the magazines Not One of Us, Twilight Showcase, Gothic.net, and Chiaroscuro. He is also a former editor of Gothic.net and currently works as a sysadmin in San Francisco, where, as the title implies, this story takes place.

In nineteenth-century photographs, nobody is smiling. The subjects sit rigid and stare out at you with cold, serious expressions. You might think humor hadn’t been invented yet, but actually cameras in those days had such long exposure times that no one wanted to hold a smile for that long. People, at least, can be instructed not to move; photographing animals proved more challenging. One early photographer decided that the only way to get a pair of stray dogs to sit still long enough for him to take their picture was to shoot them with bullets, stuff them, and position their stiff, lifeless bodies in front of his camera. In the resulting photographs, of course, the dogs appear to be alive.

This brings us to our next story, which also features photos of things that seem to be alive but aren’t. Photographs connect us to the past, fading only a little over time, especially compared with our memories, which quickly become vague and distorted. Since the dawn of photography people have obsessively compiled photo albums, keeping important memories locked safely in place. With the advent of digital cameras, it’s not unusual for a person’s personal collection to run to hundreds or even thousands of images. But what if all of that disappeared? What if a handful of photos were all that remained to remind you of an entire world, now lost?

Our next story is about just such a collection, and, as in nineteenth-century photographs, in most of these photos, nobody is smiling.