Stories read this week include Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Theordora Goss, Sarah Gray, Laura J. Underwood, and Shannon Peavey.
"An Exodus of Wings" by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Daily Science Fiction, May 24, 2013
While the story here is reasonably simple, it comes packaged in a complex experiment in narration. Set in three parts, Stufflebeam employs a different narration technique in each - Third Person, then First, then finishing up with Second. It was a brave move because it throws the reader around, but is also quite clever because it informs the reader how intimate they should be with each character. It's also an interesting way to examine gender roles, how involved each character is emotionally, and flips the normally reliable third person into unreliable.
"Princess Lucinda and the Hound of the Moon" by Theodora Goss, Lightspeed, June 2013 (reprint)
This story is a reasonably simple fairy tale, using language accessible to young readers, employing familiar fantasy tropes. It would be a nice story for families to share, and a good introduction to younger readers to online venues such as Lightspeed.
Though the story is pretty and well told, it didn't resonate so well with me. Yes, we have our more modern princess being far more level headed and taking control of her destiny, but there's a lot about Biological Destiny in the story that just doesn't sit right. Throughout the whole thing I was waiting for the person or situation that showed how our princess learned to be so level headed, but her snooty lady in waiting, fluffy-headed mother, and sensible poor friend all read as cliche set pieces. When the princess meets the Queen of the Moon, I was waiting for the very Moon Queen to break out some black eye liner or quip a la Anne Hathaway's White Queen in Alice in Wonderland...but no joy. It was all very white bread - the story happening to the princess rather than the princess happening to the story.
In the end, the Biological Destiny of her true parentage was very down on adopted and mixed families. While that BD was the opposite of most fairy tales (to become royalty rather than eschew it), I believe there is a place for more complexity of emotional involvement in children's stories.
"The Ballad of Marisol Brook" by Sarah Gray, Lightspeed, June 2013
Another neat story that digs into the sticky underbelly of body policing, fame, capitalism, and media. I especially liked how Gray examined the theme of corporatizing the body, something conservative politicians have been feinting at recently. She also played with the perception of age (each reincarnation required less attendants) and the worth it is given juxtaposed with beauty. While a science fiction piece, the story is definitely one of those that pokes deserved pins into gender roles and the media's liability in upholding them.
"How to Have Fun at the Family Funeral" by Laura J. Underwood, 4 Star Stories, June 2013
A simply told safe piece, with room for improvement, but there is potential to be found here. A few lovely lines, good flow, and good humour that plays well against the creepiness of the undead. Light reading.
"Ghosts in the Wall" by Shannon Peavey, Dairly Science Fiction, May 30, 2013
An emotional gut punch. It's fascinating to me how emotionally informed a story can be that uses earthquakes as a metaphor or setting, but at the same time can be terribly triggering. I had to stop for a good ten minutes after reading Peavey's piece to get my head back on track, and it's still doing a number on my brain. Top marks to her for a short sharp number that will have you curled up in a ball by the end. There's the double whammy of the ghost baby too. Definitely a lot to identify with here for people who have been through trauma - sharing intimate details with a complete stranger, the tearing down of the security, the feeling of sleep walking through your own life. Even her notes in passing about the buses being out of service really struck me - it's amazing after a disaster how you scrabble for simple normality.