Another week means another "issue" of Strange Horizons is out. Only this is the first part of a two-part story by Alix E. Harrow. And a poem. And some non-fiction, but this time I'm not going to look in depth at the nonfiction. Perhaps because I don't have much experience with what it's about so I wasn't sure what to think. But here I go!
"The Animal Women" (part 1) by Alix E. Harrow (3591 words)
Well this first part of the story really makes it seem like stuff is going to hit the fan. About a young white girl in the rural south right after the assassination of MLK, Jr., this story is a little hard to judge based solely on the first part. There's a lot going on here, a little girl with speech problems who wants to be a photojournalist and who finds a small group of houses where some women live. The women are described as animal-like but it's not really clear yet if that is to challenge the reader or if they are actual...well, creatures wouldn't be the right word. Spirits? Shape-shifters? It's a little difficult to guess but there is some power to them that looks like it's going to lead to some serious carnage in the second part. But I could be wrong. The premise is an interesting one, and the racial elements seem well done to me, making for a complex situation, especially when not all of the animal women are non-white. It makes me quite excited to see what happens next week.
"Orthography in the Lands of Yahm" by Daniel Ausema
I really like this poem. Though it does sound like it is very difficult to communicate in this Yahm. I love the ideas that are introduced, though, the writing on spider silk, which is delicate and often goes astray when spiders escape. Then the trees, writing that is concrete but always too late to do anything, that does nothing to stop the warring. Then the writing on the sand, which is supposed to be lasting but that only disappears. It examines the ideas of language, and how language can fail us, how it can fall short, because while these methods all seem amazing, they don't really work. And that's great. It builds an idea of each of these places, gives them personality and depth and conjures them with more force than I think would have been captured with a prose story. The structure worked for me, with the first and last sections, where the language is more ephemeral, having a loser structure and the middle, where it is written in trees, being built like a little brick of text. Excellent stuff!