Monday, May 20, 2013

365 Project: Stories Read as of 19/5/2013

Stores ingested this week include Alex Shvartsman (times two), Damien Walters Grintalis, Andrew S. Fuller, Anna Caro, Garth Nix, and Emily Jiang.

"Things We Leave Behind" by Alex Shvartsman, Daily Science Fiction, May 3, 2013
"The Tinkerbell Problem" by Alex Shvartsman, Buzzy Mag, May 2013
By coincidence (and good luck from the publishing gods for Alex!) that I came across two stories by Shvartsman in the same week. Both have similar themes and style - father/son relationships, and an easy accessible style.

There's nothing demanding about Shvartsman's style, however I prefer something meatier. "Things" was sweet with the meatier themes of anti-semitism, and "Tinkerbell" was amusing, but neither very challenging. There were tropes and characters and stories I'd seen before.

"Always, They Whisper" by Damien Walters Grintalis, Lightspeed, May 2013
Here is my Meat of the Week. Grintalis delivers a stinging critique of rape culture by flipping the Medusa myth on it's head - pun intended. A goddess suffering depression and anxiety as she tries to hide her beauty while fighting the demons in her head - it's powerful stuff the had me cheering and stuffing knuckles into my mouth at the same time. The following extract could be any moment in time on the street for a woman, anywhere in the world right now:
“Why do you have to act that way?” he says. “I just want to talk to you.”
She looks up. It doesn’t matter now anyway. She sees the stone set of his eyes—the second part of the curse. All the breath rushes from her lungs. The serpents shiver.
“Please leave me alone.”
“Please leave me alone,” he repeats in a sing-song voice.
She turns. Breaks into a run. Hears a name (one of those names) carried on the breeze, and quickens her step before it can echo in her ears.
The serpents wake. See what happens? they say. See what you make happen?

"They Shall Flourish and Spread" by Andrew S. Fuller, Crossed Genres Magazine Issue 5, May 2013
I loved the world building in this! With shades of the World Tree and Greg Bear's "Eon", there's a fully developed civilization walking to a new world through a bio-tunnel, along with the mythology, barter culture, and communal living that has sprung up around it. Some generations have been born, lived, and died while on the road. I liked the sensitive portrayal of justice for sexual violence (the victim's testimony was paramount!), and the exploration of mating rituals on the road (a refreshing openness and lack of prudity). The story left many questions unanswered but I liked that - how would a transient population carry records, other than by the notoriously unreliable word of mouth?

"Built in a Day" by Anna Caro, Luna Station Quarterly, Issue 13, 2013
It's great to see LSQ growing - they're now a token pay market (congrats!). Props to my friend and writing buddy Anna Caro - here is a story you need all your brain cylinders firing. Caro writes really interesting, complex stories, and this is one of them, playing with time and dimensions. Every being in a town of women is one person, living the same day over and over, giving that one person the opportunity to experience different jobs, skills and emotional fulfillment. An excellent metaphor exploring how gender is not a stereotype, and how liberating it can be to break the gender mold.

"Fire Above, Fire Below" by Garth Nix, Tor.com, May 8, 2013
DRAGONS! Strange fires happening in a city are caused by earth dragons attempting to leave the earth as they are dying but are blocked by wayward urban planning. I would have liked this theme of human expansion and "concreting" cities within an inch of their lives, but it is abandoned instead for some fairly stereotypical characters. We have a sexy female half dragon-half human, a good ol' down home male hero, and a couple of dumb middle aged city officials at the mercy of capitalism and their heterosexuality. I wanted to like this story more. Though the story flows and hits all the right spots, the characters were a let down. Sexy girl dragon? Really?

"The Binding of Ming-tian" by Emily Jiang, Apex Magazine, May 7, 2013
A gorgeous, haunting exploration of Chinese foot binding. I'm sure there's more to this story that I'm not getting (and I feel stupid not to get), but on the surface the beautiful prose and bittersweetness make it a very satisfying experience alone. A visceral story, packed with blood and pain and heart. Top marks once again to Apex.

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