Saturday, May 16, 2015

Watchlist Countdown, Day 27: “Strava” by Steven Hayward

      Strava is a smart phone application invented by Michael Horvath and Mark Gainey, a pair of friends who were crewmates in college and missed competing with each other after they had moved to different cities. Early in 2009, they realized GPS data had become specific enough to identify climbs based on elevation and distance and that it should be possible to record people’s times and compare them. This is what Strava does. It tracks your movement. It tells you how fast and how far you ride and compares you to the rest of the world.

          from “Strava” by Steven Hayward

Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I do own a Fitbit and regularly check my daily progress of steps and calories, as monitored by the little rubber band on my wrist. Why do you ask? Okay, sure, maybe I’m a little obsessed with tracking my mileage and perhaps I’m just a tiny bit competitive with my “Fitbit friends,” but at least I’m nothing like Tim Babcock in Steven Hayward’s story in the Watchlist anthology. Tim, 44 years old and trending toward “morbidly obese,” has just been introduced to the Strava app by his doctor, a pseudo-Olympian who also likes to claim “King of the Mountain” hill-climb victories while biking around Colorado Springs. Tim Babcock’s wife also happens to be into competitive biking, and her route sometimes includes “rest stops” near the doctor’s house. Now, thanks to Strava, Tim can track his wife's movements. I think we all know where this is headed, don’t we? Steven Hayward gradually tightens the suspense in a short story that’s also a cautionary tale about how our fitness trackers can sometimes be hazardous to our health. “Strava” made me look at my Fitbit in a whole new light.

Watchlist: 32 Short Stories by Persons of Interest, edited by Bryan Hurt, will be published by O/R Books on May 21.  The “persons of interest” contributing short stories to the anthology include Etgar Keret, Robert Coover, Aimee Bender, Jim Shepard, Alissa Nutting, Charles Yu, Cory Doctorow, David Abrams, Randa Jarrar, Katherine Karlin, Miracle Jones, Mark Irwin, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Dale Peck, Bonnie Nadzam, Lucy Corin, Chika Unigwe, Paul Di Filippo, Lincoln Michel, Dana Johnson, Mark Chiusano, Juan Pablo Villalobos, Chanelle Benz, Sean Bernard, Kelly Luce, Zhang Ran, Miles Klee, Carmen Maria Machado, Steven Hayward, Deji Bryce Olukotun, Alexis Landau and Bryan Hurt.

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