Literature Annotations

Simmons, Dan
The River Styx Runs Upstream

Genre Short Story
KeywordsDeath and Dying, Family Relationships, Illness and the Family, Love, Medical Ethics, Mother-Son Relationship, Science Fiction, Society, Suicide, Technology
SummaryA young boy's mother has just died, and out of grief and love, the father has her "resurrected." The family is told to think of the returned mother as having had a mild stroke, but, in fact, she wanders about the house like an inexpressive automaton. Her return from the dead leads to the destruction of the family: the eventual suicides of the boy's older brother and father. The boy, now a young man, becomes a Resurrectionist himself. He narrates the story with a direct, simple tone, which belies the eerie conclusion: he returns to the home of his youth, where his "family" awaits him.
CommentaryThis masterful short story won first prize in Twilight Zone Magazine's contest for unpublished authors in 1982. Multiple issues related to medical ethics can be discussed in relation to the story, such as the impact of technology, end-of-life issues, cost of care, and autonomy.
SourcePrayers to Broken Stones
Place PublishedNew York
MiscellaneousFirst published: 1982, in Twilight Zone Magazine.
Annotated by Shafer, Audrey
Date of Entry 11/08/95