Stories read this week include Genevieve Valentine, Jake Kerr, Kali Wallace, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Ken Liu, and Matt Wallace.
"86, 87, 88, 89" by Genevieve Valentine, Clarkesworld, March 2013
With overtones of the rhetoric used by governments today, this is a story about propaganda and behaviour after a government overthrow of suspected terrorists. The veneer of corporate speak thinly disguises the desperation of those rewriting and sanitizing the history of the attack. Very 1984-ish, and too close to home.
"Biographical Fragments of the Life of Julian Prince" by Jake Kerr, Lightspeed, March 2013
Interesting for the layout and style - a post-asteroid impact "This is your life" in the form of Wikipedia notes, speeches, essay and novel extracts, including pretend hyperlinks. All expertly put together to unfold a life, with twists cleverly worked in. Liked it a lot.
"No Portraits on the Sky" by Kali Wallace, Clarkesworld, April 2013
More a world-building piece, than character or story driven, but it certainly is a unique and charming world. The story gets a little fuzzy near the end with no logical explanation for appearance of the injured man-in-a-suit, or disappearance of the forest people. The only thing I could think of was the forest was an enclosed bio-dome, but the reading didn't really hold up to that. Not the sort of story for anyone with arachnophobia. I had to push on through.
"Sundae" by Matt Wallace, PodCastle, April 3, 2013
For all the talk this story has garnered, I really wanted to like it. It's got a lovely voice (and was served very well by a fantastic narrator), oozes charm and has an incredibly emotional finish.
But damned if it doesn't suffer from the "Rape as Character Building" trope. I became increasingly jaded and annoyed when it was employed twice on major female characters, and the third female character was subject to male "ownership" rules and barred from proper societal interaction (technology, communication) "for her own good"...and yet somehow turned out to be "good and wise". No - when young people are denied everything their peers have (TV, phones, computers) they rebel; they are not prepared for the world. Think abstinence-only sex education, and you'll get my drift.
All three female characters had no autonomy outside of their rapes and/or ownership, and their entire character build was predicated on this.
Another thing that irked me was the use of "filter" - there was a lot of "heard, felt, touched, saw". For all it's lovely prose, it could have been tightened up more.
Sure, this was an R-rated story for violence against children, but dammit all genre writers, stop being so lazy. There are other ways to build female characters than rape. Women are not just their sexual autonomy. Big thumbs down.
"The Crows Her Dragon's Gate" by Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, April 4, 2013
Wow, do I have a tough measure to live up to in issue #118 of BCS! Sriduangkaew has written a gorgeous tale here. Her language is lush and sinuous, the type I have to read slow to lap it all up and take in. I adore that she wrote an asexual character.
"Deus Ex Arca" by Deserina Boskovich, Lightspeed, April 2013
The type of story that leaves you confused, but in a good way. A strange but well worked balance between humour and heartbreak.
"Build-A-Dolly" by Ken Liu, Apex Magazine, April 2, 2013
A quick emotional punch from Ken Liu, the expert at twisting the heart strings. Will make you regret disposing of your childhood toys. Hug your nearest teddy or doll today, and give it an apology.