Sunday, February 10, 2013

The 365 Project: Stories Read as of 9/2/2013

Stories read include Catherine Krahe, Ruth Nestvold, Sunny Moraine, Eketarina Sedia, An Owomoyela, Susan Palwick, and James Tiptree, Jr.

"Walking Home" by Catherine Krahe, Daily Science Fiction, January 4, 2013
A moving piece about the different shapes family can take. Grim, with a complex ending, where everything won't be sunshine but there is hope amongst the angst. Nice mixture of complex male characters.

"The Shadow Artist" by Ruth Nestvold, Abyss and Apex, January 2013
This one didn't grab me so much. A fairly "sell the soul to the devil" revenge scenario, which lacked in characterization. Responses were wooden and trite, and after the protag realized the errors of his ways, I was too annoyed with his childish antics to really buy his turnaround. Suffered from "Nice Guy Syndrome".

"Thin Spun" by Sunny Moraine, Hellebore and Rue: Tales of Queer Women and Magic, Lethe Press, May 2011
I've had this anthology for a while now and have been meaning to dip into it more. A nice, smooth Science Fantasy with an elderly woman protag. A satisfying clean, aching finish. I was most intrigued by the world building of the tree ships.

"Whale Meat" by Eketarina Sedia, The Future is Japanese, Haikasoru
The beauty of this stark story is it did not occur to me that is was near future science fiction until the last paragraph, so close to reality it was. A story about dwindling fish stocks and the last of a particular whale species (and they ease in which they're disposed), it really hits home how this could happen within my lifetime. Beautifully brittle language from Sedia.

"Swansong Skin" by An Owomoyela, Expanded Horizons, May 2012
A gorgeous retelling of the Ugly Duckling tale, in response to otherkin desires to have more their tales told. Simple, beautiful, sad, with an excellent finish.

"Sanctuary" by Susan Palwick, Eclipse Online, February 4, 2013
I'm in two minds about this story. I've been meaning to read some Palwick for a long time, and her style is excellent - fresh, fun, sharp. The story tells of the people who remain on earth after the Rapture, and there's a lot of diversity and good characterization. I liked it a lot for the quality of writing, and the beautifully fleshed out slow reveal. The Sims-like "broadcasting" (emoticons flashing above a person's head) really amused the gamer in me, as well as the helpless baby-like angels (a flip of the cherub trope).

However, I'm still trying to decide what I make of the reading of who got left behind and why, and the religious undertones. The story posits the Rapture as a random occurrence, though the most explored explanation doesn't sit well with me - the five characters are disabled, two lesbians, a transvestite, and an evil-doer (ex-con), and though they hand-wave away this coincidence to socialized ideologies, the feeling still lingers for the rest of the story.

The story is unapologetic in its use of religious tropes, and only really gets preachy when Cyn (the BDSM expert) talks of her earlier explorations of religion and her concluded philosophy.

I definitely liked it for its snappy style and flow.

"And I have come upon this place by lost ways" by James Tiptree, Jr., Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, Tachyon, 2004
Tip is one of my favourite authors of all time, and she's one of my go-to writers when I need a reminder of what really classy writing is like. While her scientific-based writing is definitely a product of its time (pre-digital scientific explanations are quaintly amusing), the class is always there. She is best at just obscuring her meaning beneath the easy layers of gendered socialization and expectations, and she's very VERY good at showing how ridiculous those are without hitting the reader over the head with a mallet.

I can only hope to learn such subtlety and finesse.

The disappointment I get from Tip's writing however is that I have never found a woman character she fully explores as well as she does her men. Knowing her more intricately (famously quoted as "I love women, but I don't like them"), this is not unusual, but for a writer famous within the feminist sf genre (though she rejected being called feminist) it's a difficult thing to bear.

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