Lois Tilton reviews Short Fiction, early November
Some good reading to open November. Analog anchors the column with a double issue that opens the 2014 season. Also a good issue of Asimov’s. I review Interfictions for the first time and like it pretty well. The Good Story award goes to the DeNiro, and also to the Robert Reed in Clarkesworld.
- Analog, January/February 2014
- Asimov’s, January 2014
- Clarkesworld, November 2013
- Interfictions 2, October 2013
- Apex Magazine, November 2013
Analog, January/February 2014
The issue leads off with a Lovett novella and ends with the second installment of the Schroeder serial, placing ten shorter pieces inside the sandwich. I find a number of stories here, especially the longer ones, that could have been much better than they are – not bad stories, but frustratingly near-misses.
“Music to Me” by Richard A Lovett
Continuing the author’s series about Floyd and no-longer-his AI Brittney – without Floyd. The partnership broke up at the end of the last episode, and now Brittney is on her own and suffering a bit of regret.
Why is it I miss talking to him so much, even though he hardly ever strung more than a few words together? And why can’t I keep from wondering if he and his beautiful xenologist are happy, back on Neptune? Too many questions and no one to talk to but myself. A dangerous combination.
Brittney’s internal voice is witty and entertaining, but even so, with nothing for her to do over the course of several pages but reminisce, readers might begin to get antsy and wish something or other might actually happen. Which it begins to, when Brittney discovers that she isn’t the only autonomous sentient AI in existence, as she had begun to fear. But the entity isn’t what she’d expected. “I’d met Hell in the absence of data. Now I found the Devil in the lure of perfect access.” In the meantime, she is implanted again in an heiress whose mother has decided she needs a cybernanny.
The situation develops too long into the story, but it builds to a point where readers should be quite involved. Until the To Be Continued sign flashes on the screen. I was, by that time, wondering how it would all be resolved, so this is frustrating. To say that the story lacks closure would be an understatement. Maybe in another couple of years another installment will be published. I expect that we will then find Brittney reconciling with Floyd.
“The Tansy Tree” by Rob Chilson
A world, apparently in the future, with strong class distinctions and more than a bit of decadence. Darioch’s wife Zania has been sickly since the stillbirth of their child, and he attends personally to her care in their cottage away from all noble society and his duties in the Capital, where a crisis in breaking out. Visitations continue to arrive, urging his return to duty, but he rebuffs them all for his duty to his wife.
“A stronger or better man than I might do so, but I am too weak. By insensible degrees, if I trusted her care to anyone else, I would find reasons to see her less and less, until I had abandoned her.”
A portrait of love and duty. Darioch is acutely sensible of both claims on him; he remains with Zania for both reasons. It’s notable that while he loves his sick wife, he loves his lover more, grieving at the loss of her company and the grief it has caused her. He even admits at one point, “Sometimes, when the evil fit is on me, I can hate her for all she has taken from me.” This is quite moving. So much so that I find myself annoyed by all the overmannered, distracting ha and heh and ho in the dialogue, doubtless meant to distance this society from our own, but unfortunately it tends to trivialize the characters and their situation, which is really a tragic one. The author’s style is working against his story.
“Determined Spirits” by Grey Rollins
Adrian is awakened from hibernation by the blinking lights that signal something gone wrong on the colony ship.
Squinting, he peered again at the lights. Not good. There was a hard vacuum on the other side of the hatch to his cocoon. He twisted his neck, ignoring the creaking as his vertebrae protested, so he could peer out the palm-sized window above his head. All he saw was darkness, punctuated by colored dots from the external displays on other colonists’ cocoons across the bay. There was power, but the main lights were not on. He tried to think of reasons why that might be, but failed to come up with anything that made sense.
What he eventually discovers is far more ominous than the puncture he initially discovers and patches in the hull.
This starts out to be a neat Hard SF thriller/problem story. I like the way the character comes out of hibernation and the realistic-seeming details of the ship’s equipment. Half-way through, the problem seems to be an intriguing computer malfunction perhaps along the lines of HAL, when suddenly politics rears its ugly head and characters start to sneer and deliver bombastic diatribes. Very disappointing. The story carries on with the SFnal problem-solving in a satisfactory way, but it’s hard to appreciate it as much.
“Mousunderstanding” by Carl Frederick
Humor – linguistic confusion variety. A human planetary colony of Indian origin with a large supply of gold has requested the services of a Terran trade delegation. The Angloterrans see this is a threat to their currency, but find a Francophone negotiator there before them. Complications ensue because of the colonists’ practice of ahimsa and their mouse-based currency. A silly piece without credibility.
“Wine, Women, and Stars” by Thoraiya Dyer
One of those pieces that’s mostly backstory. Felicia has trained her whole life to become the surgeon on the Mars expedition. The competition is grueling, but she prevails. Problem is, one other candidate has come in ahead of her – the daughter of her best friend. Because Bridget is younger, she wins the position, and Felicia knows that at her age she’ll never get another chance. Then comes an ironic temptation. The surgeon scheduled to remove Bridget’s organs for replacement with nanosystems asks Felicia to substitute at the operating table. One crucial cut, and she will take over from Brenda.
The descriptions of the testing have some rather gruesome interest.
Bubbles in the water showed where the oxygen was leaking from the mask. She hadn’t tightened the neck seals properly. No, it wasn’t that. There was a neck wound beneath the seal, and the gauze in the wound was allowing the gas to escape. Any tighter, and she’d cut off blood to the brain; she turned away from the body as two more trolleys exploded behind her.
But it’s all backstory. We know, as the story opens, that Felicia wasn’t selected for the position, despite her overwhelming effort. And I doubt that any readers will seriously suppose Felicia would surgically sabotage a rival she’s known since Bridget was born. Thus the tension isn’t real, and the ending comes with the usual sort of feelgood epiphany.
“This is as I Wish to Be Restored” by Christie Yant
Cryopreservation biz hasn’t gone well.
The early full-body cases were bad, which was one of the reasons they went to neuro in the first place. The splits in the elbows, the back of the knees, the buttocks, the groin—anywhere there’s a fatty fold, the frozen flesh split wide open.
The narrator was assigned to scan and destroy a lot of old files of failed cases, but for some reason he fell in love with the photo of one young woman, a cancer victim. He illicitly keeps her unit in his apartment, along with the picture that she had included to guide her restoration. Readers will suspect that no good will come of this. It’s sort of a ghoulish piece, masquerading as a lot of perversions do, as obsessive love.
“The Problem with Reproducible Bugs” By Marie DesJardin
Vince is a somewhat mad neuroscientist who has suffered a series of concussions the secret lab where he is, among other projects, mapping his own brain. The successive blows have wiped out several days of short-term memory. No one knows the cause, whether accident or malice. I’m not quite sure how credible this one is, but it’s definitely a cautionary tale warning against conducting experiments without backup in secret, locked rooms.
“Just Like Grandma Used to Make” by Brenta Blevins
The food cops raid Jackie’s holiday dinner. Unoriginal stuff.
“Racing Prejudice” by John Frye III
An AI builds himself an artificial human body to compete in the Olympics. This is a story about sport and the spirit of competition, but the premise is too implausible.
“Technological Plateau” by Michael Turton
An ecological survey is underway on Sulla IV, a world with high promise for human colonization, when control informs the team that all local lifeforms have suddenly ceased movement. Shortly afterwards they are hit by an electronic storm that renders all their equipment useless. This, they realized is what must have happened to the much-earlier human expedition that had left the wrecked spacecraft on the plateau.
A setting with interesting biological wonders, but rather than letting readers in on solving the mystery, one of the scientists pronounces the answer, which is deflating.
“This Quiet Dust” by Karl Bunker
Exploring the galaxy. On one planet the human explorers discover a wonder, a subtle yet fascinating one. Their time is limited; their ship’s journey goes ever on. And one older scientist finds himself reluctant to leave.
“Once any sample of dust is cut off from the world, from the rest of the entity, it will just be dust. Interesting dust perhaps, but just dust. The equivalent of a few neurons from a human brain. The most we can hope to prove back on the ship is that what I’m proposing is theoretically possible.”
Much like the Turton piece above, this one is more about the wonder than anything else. But here we see the humans putting the pieces together from the evidence, and that makes the real difference. Henrick, as well, is an appealing character, always coming up with an appropriate poetic quotation, to the sometimes irritation of his colleagues – a bit of artificial tension the story doesn’t really need, being sufficiently charming without it.
Asimov’s, January 2014
Starting off the year well. Good stories here, varied and interesting.
“Memorials” by Aliette de Bodard
Another tale in the author’s expended alternate/future history series, this one following the Rong people who have taken refuge among the Galactics, with the constant tension of new ways against their traditional ones. It centers in particular around the Memorial that the Galactics have constructed as a tourist attraction of false Rong memories.
It’s a city of fashionable, glitzy hotels frequented by the Galactic expatriates; of quaint and exotic temples, with Buddhist rituals described by someone who couldn’t understand what it means to believe in the bodhisattva Quan Am, in the weight of one’s sin and in reincarnation. Its family feasts are seen through the eyes of Galactics, who cannot comprehend the value of food or of filial piety; even its small alleyways are sordid and unclean instead of being families’ beloved homes—in every way it’s subtly and jarringly wrong, a travesty of what the Rong deem precious.
In this future, the memories of the dead are often used for virtual displays, and Cam, a failure within her family, has taken on the shameful and illegal job of acquiring the chips holding memories of dead Rong to be used for the Memorial. Her crime has begun to catch up with her; the police want to make a deal if she’ll give up the black market gang she works for. It’s a relief, an escape from the growing burden of her lies.
The strengths here are in the depiction of Rong culture and in the story of Cam’s redemption. But more interesting are issues the story doesn’t address directly: why did the aunts pick Cam, a weak link indeed, to do their important work? Why did they present it as a crime instead of the blessing it really is? If they could trust Cam to keep their secret under those circumstances, how much more likely would she have been to keep it if she knew the truth? And, more practically, where did the money come from?
“Primes” by Ron Collins
The math is basically metaphorical. The story is crime and its consequences. Jersey Jones’ job is manipulating the neural interfaces of consumers to push advertisements to their minds.
It was, of course, important the customer always felt they were in control. The customer is always right, and each needs to feel unique in its own way, like a prime. This was not true, of course. At the level InterTel spoke of them, customers were all the same. Like so many of us, they were fake primes. But when the illusion was complete, people got what they wanted and wanted what they got.
But Jones also knows how to game the system, to block his own interface and transmit personal feeds into the minds of others, like the woman he meets at a bar and invites back to his place for the rough sex he’s subliminally placed into her mind. What he doesn’t plan or expect is her jumping out his 7th-floor window, which attracts the attention of persons involved in law enforcement.
Very neat stuff. I like the cool and distant narrative voice with its moments of wit, the incisive summaries of the characters’ essentials, the details of Jones’ creepy but ingenious scheme. Most effective is Andrelline [I like these character names] who is being mentally raped and knows it, but can’t resist. I think I will avoid getting a neural implant when they come along.
“The Common Good” by Nancy Kress
56 years before, an alien ship vaporized all Earth’s larger cities, killing billions and sending civilization abruptly backwards. Since that day, it has partly been rebuilt through mutual cooperation. Zed’s parents, however, retreated into isolation, where they raised their son until he finally rejected their backwards life. Encountering civilization, though, is a shock. “He knew nothing, nothing. His parents had let him grow up knowing nothing.” He didn’t know, for one thing, that the aliens were living under an energy dome and let selected young humans in to work for them. Joining them there, he learns that the aliens had acted to save human civilization from itself, demonstrating the future consequences of industrialization. They are helping humans develop alternate technologies. Zed grasps this. But he can’t ignore the deaths of so many, the means the aliens took to achieve their end. And could it really work?
Civilization, pretty much stalled since June 30th, could use these safer, cleaner, better things to move forward again. But—civilization was so big. The world was so big. Whole countries were re-establishing the old ways of mining, drilling, manufacturing—Ruhan had told him so. Could these new ideas really change anything?
The character of Zed is central to the story. Brought up in ignorance, he’s definitely not stupid, but he comes without preconceptions. He rejects his father’s backwards inlook but doesn’t understand enough of the other competing ideologies to judge them. A girl named Isobel has tried to seduce him to her anti-alien cause; Zed can see through her, but he still wants her. The aliens are trying to develop his intuition, but no one knows what will happen when he does. The aliens teach him enough that he recognizes the human folly of hero-worship, but he also knows he has the potential to become a hero himself, a leader. A very unlikely but believable potential savior of the human race.
“Extracted Journal Notes for an Ethnography of Bnebene Nomad Culture” by Ian McHugh
Irene is an ethnographer studying a clan of nomadic vegetable people that seem to have migrated to Earth. This sort of thing often leads to interesting description:
The whole clan lined up with their toes in the river, leaf collars raised toward the afternoon sun. Within a few minutes, all had become quiet. What had been a bustling caravan of people was now suddenly transformed into a stand of unfamiliar trees of various sizes, silent and still.
Irene is looking for an insight that will establish her career, a new theory of bnebene gender and dividuality – the species regards itself as one, with fractions and subfractions of male, female and neuter bodies. They can’t understand the notion of an individual; it causes them great distress.
An unusual tale. Although much of the text is given to the descriptions of bnebene life, the real focus of the story is on the narrator Irene and the extent that she’s willing to potentially harm her subjects in the pursuit of not just knowledge but the status it will bring her. Hers is no disinterested scientific enterprise. But the account is done with subtlety. Warned of the potential for harm to the neuters she is traveling with, Irene backs off, but at one point they insist on her explaining herself. How much is she responsible for the consequences? It’s one of the questions left as an exercise for the reader.
“Static” by Swilliam Jablonsky
An astronomical Event is about to occur, and people have been warned that EMP will cause problems. Jim has enough problems already. Nine months after the birth of their son, his wife is still suffering from the postpartum crazies from hell. Now she refuses to turn off any of their phones, “in case.” And the phone calls begins to come in, from the future, first related to their son Oscar, then from Oscar himself. Year after year, they pick up the highlights of their son’s life. And their own disintegrating marriage.
A sad story. I feel sorry for Jim, who has lost the wife he loved and who apparently never returns. Now he sees that he will probably be losing the son he bares knows yet, the relationship victim of the same dysfunction that ruins his marriage. It might be more natural to feel sorry for Soledad, because she is the one suffering from crippling fears, but it’s clear that Soledad is the controlling figure in the marriage, that she is the one who will determine its fate. This story, I think, is a good illustration of why prophecy has often been illegal. You don’t really want to know.
“The Carl Paradox” by Steve Rasnic Tem
The future again, in humorous mode. In this case, Carl is visited by his 30-year future self, whom he doesn’t recognize. It seems that Carl is a figure of such unimportance and insignificance that no paradoxes will be generated from this experiment. Under some circumstances. Pretty silly and predictable, alas.
Clarkesworld, November 2013
Featuring a fine story from Robert Reed.
“Mystic Falls” by Robert Reed
In a world where every sight is uploaded and stored—where no seconds are thrown away—people have a natural tendency to walk in their own fog, knowing that everything missed will be found later, and if necessary, replayed without end.
Into these uploaded moments, a memory has been inserted into the minds of Earth’s population: a youngish woman with the most appealing voice in the world says, “Hello”. And despite the fact that her presence in the virtual world gives only pleasure and does no harm, the powers that be are determined to eliminate her as a thing that should not be. For which Hector Borland is chosen, to ask her what she is and what she wants.
Quiet, subtle and perfectly done. The story asks us to consider what is important in life and what is real, posing as it does the question that originated with Plato: How can we be certain about what we experience? And is it perhaps better not to know?
“Never Dreaming (In Four Burns)” by Seth Dickinson
Zaleha is a rocket scientist working on a plasma thruster that keeps exhibiting a coding fault that causes it to abort. Zaleha, too, has a fatal fault in her DNA coding that will soon prevent her from falling into REM sleep, leading to dementia and death. She also has a secret angel who seems to come from another world, a world of dreams, and claims to know her destiny: “You’re going to cross over. You’re going to learn, and struggle, and grow mighty. You’re going to save us all.” But Tariune hates mundane Earth and has no use for Zaleha’s materialist dream of the stars; he wants her to abandon it all and cross over while she still can dream. The consequences of her choice turn out to be cosmic.
Who among us, given a prince of light inviting us to live eternally in elfland, would give it up to work on a physics project? I think there’s no doubt what Zaleha would choose if not for her imminent deterioration. How often do we see characters opting for hard SF over fantasy? This is refreshing.
“The Aftermath” by Maggie Clark
You [which is to say the narrator-I] have been abducted by aliens and returned a couple of years later. Things will never be the same, although we’re not sure why “you” can’t reconnect with your family.
A story about getting over it [whatever it might be – “another child recovered from years-long captivity; another political kidnapping brought to no good end.”] and getting on with life. Stuff happens, on Earth or off.
Interfictions 2, October 2013
Subtitled: A Journal of the Interstitial Arts.
I was too late for the first issue when it came out this spring, so this can stand in its place as the debut review. The introductory editorial says that the zine intends its activity to take place on the edges of both the academic and genre worlds, blurring these distinctions. Also to blur the distinctions between literary formats: fiction, nonfiction, verse, and graphic. Which makes me wonder why the contents is distinguished with these various labels, rather than just being lumped together as Stuff. Nonetheless, it has been done, so I’m taking the editors as their word and retaining my usual practice of limiting my purview to those pieces with the “Fiction” tag, given that it’s there and the pieces link from one to the other. I find this an interesting bunch of stories, with an overall genre sensibility. Particularly liking the DeNiro.
“The Mechanism of Moving Forward” by Nikki Alfar
Historical fiction set near the end of the Tokagawa Shogunate, as Japan came increasingly under Western influence; this led to internal conflict between reactionary forces and those of progress. Sakuma Shozan was a foremost advocate of Westernizing and progress, an innovating scientist of great ingenuity, which made him a target of the reactionary faction. Thus his daughter Kei can’t understand why he has agreed to her engagement with one of that faction’s foremost warriors, unless it is part of a conspiracy against him. But the crippling rules of the caste system make it almost impossible to for him to defend himself, until his daughter and protégé devise a way.
This one is pure genre, alternate history with elements that will certainly strike genre readers as steampunkish, although the clockwork automatons called karakuri are entirely historical. It is quite well-crafted, with skillfully employed metaphor and allusions, of which the karakuri is central, providing both the title and the section headings. The title, referring to the working mechanism of the automatons, also clearly signifies progress.
Then there is the device that makes the difference. Everything about it is attested in historical fact, as is the setting and most of the characters. Tanaka Hishashige was certainly capable of crafting such an automaton. Sakuma’s daughter would very likely have had the necessary training to operate it. Yet the scene we have here defies my suspension of disbelief. I believe it could have been done; I can’t believe it could have been done so well, so effectively, so successfully. I wish I could, because the story is in other respects quite admirable. I really wanted it to work.
“The Presley Brothers” by Molly Gloss
Another alternate scenario, in which Elvis’s twin Jesse was not stillborn. Elvis says that God touched Jesse so he wouldn’t have to be alone.
[the midwife] blew air into him and pinched his little cheeks and slapped his little behind and just about the time Momma had quit hoping for a miracle he took in a big gasp and pinked right up.
Today, in 1986, they are being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Or rather, Elvis is, because Jesse has gone on before him, “and when we find each other, the string that joins me to him will play such a note, y’all will hear it all the way up here in the world.”
This would seem to be one of those cases of fiction and nonfiction blending, but not, I’m afraid, in a good way. The point of divergence in their lives is Elvis’s induction into the Army, when he went and Jesse did not. Before that, their lives were essentially what we know of Elvis’s, and as he tells it, he might as well be reading from his Wikipedia entry. But with their lives split, it was Jesse who became the big star, who made the bad movies, who went to Las Vegas and became Fat Elvis in the garish suits. While Elvis Prime was left to go his own way, which remained closer to his roots, to songwriting and spiritual matters. It’s an interesting speculation, but the heart of the story is the enduring tie between the two brothers who were once one, as of course all identical twins once were. That’s the fiction, and it’s the best part.
“The Plans, the Blueprints” by Kevin Brockmeier
A novel excerpt. A day in the life of Kevin, an average 7th-grade boy with a loose hold on truth. His day doesn’t go particularly well until the end, when he gets one of those half-dreaming epiphanies that seem to make sense at the time.
He feels himself sailing on some great wind of thought, his mind tacking across the open water, and both of them as silver as aluminum foil, and then, in an instant, he realizes that the planet is made up of squares, blocks, cartons, boxes.
Given what we know of Kevin, he’d probably be better off not trying to explain his revelation to the guys at school.
Fiction, but not genre. The editors didn’t promise genre. I can’t say that Kevin is a particularly interesting character.
“The Philip Sidney Game” by Alan DeNiro
Metafiction, to some power of meta. DeNiro writes about an author named DeNiro and the opening of an aborted story.
Several years ago, I started writing a story about a man who was flying into Minneapolis-St. Paul and saw a car crash from above. The plane was about a thousand feet up and was descending when he saw the crash. It was late at night, a red-eye flight, so he could only see the headlights and tail-lights, and the faintest silhouettes of the cars.
On rediscovering the file containing the story fragment, he is impelled to try to complete it, following the movements of the passenger after his plane has landed. But before he can finish the story, he begins to receive packages containing different versions of the it, all written, apparently, by himself at the date he began it. In one of these accounts, the passenger is sent a package containing yet another, disturbing version of his story, written by Alan DeNiro. In another, DeNiro is the passenger; he discovers eventually there are infinite versions of the story that he is telling himself, about himself.
Which would, by itself, be interestingly recursive. Yet there is also the matter of the story’s title, the title of the story at hand, and what the Elizabethan poet Sidney has to do with the 21st century author DeNiro. And here is where we begin to slide sidewise from evolutionary game theory into “the metaphysics of poetry” and the creation of a magical vatic verse with the power of spells to communicate between past and future. That is, into pure fantasy.
And back again. There are elements here of straight metafiction, as the author reflects on his writing process of writing: “Back then, I was also much more likely to pepper a story with self-referential and oblique cues to let the reader know at all costs that he or she was reading a story and not to get too comfortable in the story’s illusion.” But more importantly, there is the why he writes, the signals he is trying to send himself.
Of all the fictions here, this one is the most clearly and interestingly “interstitial”. As a fantasy, the work is disturbing in the notion of being trapped eternally in the prison of one’s own creation. As a metaphor, it slips sidewise again, as the central notion of the Game is altruism directed towards others, whereas here, the author is dealing with his own self. We also have the notion of the good death, which the historical Sidney was supposed to have epitomized; yet here we find it transmuted into the closing of the good life. Much food here for thought.
“The Jaguar’s Wife” by Anil Menon
A tale contained in a .pdf file linked from the website, in which we find annotations and illustrations appended to what is basically a zombie story told in different voices – conventional narrative, epistolary, faux-academic, and factual – a technique not novel in itself but expanded here rather beyond the norm. The subject is Homo acervus, the epigenetically-evolved species commonly known as zombies, at least according to some, such as Dr Hackmack. He attempts to study the social organization and olfactory-based language of the Acervii by immersing himself in their company, but this has its hazards, as he learns.
My mind is done for. Hee hee. Hark, hark, three barks for Mister Mack. Resolved: we the remaining noral bells of this ruined state I am by God given inalienable rights a man. I am a man, I am a man. I have one pee-pee, so I must be a man, dammit. Before I kissed my gravebreath bride for richer or poorer sickness or health I was ten-eared professor, man.
Many of the notes are there to explicate the Joycean passage above, and generally easing the passage of readers through the text, cluing us in, for example, to the references to Lévi-Strauss. Other references warn us that Hackmack is not to be relied on; a notice for his eponymous study calls it “widely ridiculed”, although we must recall that many brilliant breakthroughs were originally ridiculed on their first appearance. Overall, style here overwhelms story, in which there is also a certain amount of ambiguity, although the general thrust of the matter is pretty clear for readers who piece it together, and it’s also clearly genre material. The theory intrigues, and it’s also a question whether the many digressions may not prove just as interesting in their own right.
Apex Magazine, November 2013
A varied lot of stories, one of which isn’t very dark.
“Recordings of a More Personal Nature” by Bogi Takács
Everything in the Temple, which means everything in the society, depends on the Archive. All the knowledge is stored there, and the archivists are trained to access it. But now for some reason that may have to do with the stars, the Archive is becoming harder to access; the archivists are losing contact with it, and also the parts of their own selves contained in it.
“It’s so strange,” [Idriwu] said, on an eerily level voice. “So much of me is gone. But the me that lives in the present is still there. It’s only when I try to reminisce… It’s like putting a foot forward and touching down on thin air. The path of memories is gone.”
Solutions are found, temporary and more permanent. One short scene here strikes me as interestingly paradoxical. While reviving a stricken archivist, a Temple official uses several secret phrases, forbidden to others, in the presence of a judge. She makes the judge forget them. An institution where accessing information is so crucial, nonetheless goes around wiping it from minds.
“The Jackal’s Wedding” by Vajra Chandrasekera
Animal fable: a jackal lives in the glade, protecting its treasure, wielding its potent magic, mating with his daughters to produce more daughters, never sons, because a son would inherit the magic and leave the old dog powerless. One day a man comes to the glade and courts Jackery. She marries him in human form; they eat each others’ hearts. But Jack discovers Tien’s ulterior motives when she finds her own heart vomited out in the midden. He does not love her.
I really like the heart imagery.
“This Is a Ghost Story” by Keffy R M Kehrli
Actually, it’s a rant.
We’re angry that our parents have sold each other our rebellions, profiting on our ability to apathetically give a shit. Our older brothers and sisters raged this way, and our parents did too, before it was time to settle down and get serious, to pay our war taxes and send our youth to die in the jungle, in the mountains, in the desert.
The infinite possibilities of a life that never turns out well in this world. A work of anger, despair, suicide.