What can I say about the September content from Uncanny that will convince you enough to go out and read it now? Star Trek nonfiction? There are two and they are amazing and I would love this month's offerings for that alone but there's also three pieces of fiction that delve into relationships and love and yearning and dysfunction and are definitely worth checking out and there is a poem that has left me desperate for a flavor I've never know, a food that I can almost taste and it is so good. Seriously, everything is good this month and this is just the thing for people looking for some great SFF fiction, poetry, and nonfiction! To the reviews!
|Art by Kirbi Fagan|
"My Body, Herself" by Carmen Maria Machado (2030 words)
This is a strange story of being buried and being dead and being chased and being born again. The action of the story, such as it is, follows a young woman who has died in a cave-in, in a cave she ran to in order to avoid a man, to escape a man who meant to do her harm. Trapped beneath the debris, the dead woman sees another person. Or another being, one who looks exactly like her, one who doesn't seem to know how to speak but slowly learns. The plot unfolds over years and the story does a great job of conveying the disconnect that death brings, the way that the main character is trapped and dead, trapped in death, and trapped by death, by the way that she died, by the danger and the intent with which she was chased. The story is sensual and defiant to me, the main character slowly coming to terms with what killed her, slowly overcoming her own guilt and shame about what happened and pushing through the crushing weight of earth and rock and reaching for the light. Reaching for a voice loud enough to scream and rage and express the horror of what has happened, the loss and the injustice. It's a story about pushing up from underneath being buried and being born again. And it's a visceral, rather surreal piece that I very much recommend. Check it out!
"Not a Miracle But a Marvel" by Tim Pratt (6539 words)
Aww. This is a cute story about games and about love. And, in some ways, about rules and about breaking them. The story follows a pair of poly couples as they vacation at a lake house out in the middle of nowhere. The four people, two men and two women, enjoy an open relationship that is highlighted in this story more by its mundane-ness than by its fantasy. These are people who live and have jobs and struggle to find time to get away. They make bad jokes and they have fun together, from games to sex, in a way that works for them. And the story seems to give a bit of a wink at that idea, placing it next to a story where the couples stumble across a fairy portal and have to play for the life of one of their number again a being who views them with obvious disdain. The story seems to dare the readers to view the relationship as fantasy or impossible. To me, at least, it seems to say here, look at the absurd element of the story—is it the poly relationship or is it the fairy? And by challenging the tropes of fantasy and horror with the reality of this relationship I feel the story does a great job of showing just how real these people are, full of small insecurities and doubts, yes, but breaking the problematic depictions of poly relationships that are much more prevalent than this picture of normalcy. And the whole thing works well for me, is fun and a bit light but also celebratory and charming. The characters live and breathe and the plot is a fine mix of weird and wonderful and everything comes together nicely in the end with a truly awful waffle pun. A victory, I say. A victory!
"Under One Roof" by Sarah Pinsker (5732 words)
This is a slightly creepy and rather dark story about life and habitation, about echoes and about relationships. The story focuses on Court and Josh, a couple who find themselves in an old house with a locked attic. An attic that makes noise at night. Their relationship…well, to me it isn't exactly the greatest, the two caught in expectations and roles, Josh a bit driftless and a bit of an ass, hoping for something to just work, for Court to want kids and settle them into a nice life of domestic bliss while not really doing much. And Court finds herself still caring about Josh and hoping that he'll buckle down and get serious and not leave her to do all the heavy lifting so much. It's Josh who decides to open the attic, and it's Josh who becomes obsessed with what's up there, an entire room stuffed with relics from the past. Toys and furniture and other things like that, all of it strangely out of time, and all of it unable to be taken from the attic. [SPOILERS] And then Court finds that Josh is in the attic as well. Or an echo of him. Lost there in the midst of an argument, forever waiting for her to do something for him and forever unwilling to descend from the attic to apologize, to make things right. It's a beautiful story, one that shows this relationship with its various problems, not least that Josh is lost in this antique idea of gender and gender roles and relationships, something out of the old shows and idea that the story evokes. And Court is stuck not really sure what to do, stuck between the harsh realities of her situation and the growing understanding that Josh isn't coming down, that he will always be in that attic and that she doesn't want to join him, doesn't want to chain herself in that way to his ideals. It's a touching story and a moving one while maintaining a nice creepiness and a creeping darkness. An excellent read!
"肉骨茶 (Meat Bone Tea)" by S. Qiouyi Lu
This poem speaks to me of care and of delicious food. I am salivating now and perhaps should not review hungry but wow, this is a beautifully evocative poem, one that sets the scene and literally sets a table for two. It's a poem that brings together so many different things, the tea this wondering world glittering in the light, alive with the heat and the hope of everything the maker is putting into it. There is a flavor in it that is a place, that is a feeling, that is an entire world for these two people to share, to enjoy. The poem moves slow and deliberately, a simmering piece that draws the reader, that drew me, into this ritual, this meal. There is a history that is revealed in the making of the meal, a history that is in part what the maker is putting into the tea but also something deeper still, the tea like the relationship between the two people, serene and comforting and vivid and yet built on care and so many different elements that makes this tea, that makes this friendship, unique and wonderful. I love pieces that manage to use food and this poem definitely makes me hungry for more. I'd call it sweet but it seems more savory to me, light but deep and delightful in its layering and construction. An amazing piece!
"This Is Our Work: What Star Trek Asks of Us" by Mary Anne Mohanraj
Yes, I am looking at the nonfiction this month because yes, I am in love with Star Trek. I have all the feels and opinions about Star Trek and I really need to give them all another look through but I agree with so much of what this piece is saying. That the core optimism, even when the show complicated it and shrouded it—even when it seemed like there was no light and there was no hope of light—could not be denied. Not just that good would win over evil but that understanding would win over violence. That my enemy will be my friend. In another reality, perhaps, but in this one too, in this world where we can seek to reach out a hand in friendship, in caring, in healing, rather than always with the blade. There is so much in Star Trek that I love, and even when it isn't perfect it remains probably the best example of hope in science fiction, of justice in science fiction, that I have ever met. Because it understood that justice is not something that comes from on high. That there can be no justice where laws are absolute. That it takes empathy and it takes trust and it takes effort to build and maintain something so fragile and so wonderful and so strong as the Federation. It's something I feel like gets lost occasionally, and I feel like my own issues with Enterprise and the newer movies have to do with that but Star Trek remains a pillar of my enjoyment of science fiction. Of my enjoyment of life. That there is hope and that I might not be alone in believing in it. So yeah, definitely check out this piece and have all the feels because that's what I did. A fantastic read!
"All True, Especially the Lies—Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Cardassia" by Una McCormack
Okay, so I LOVE Garak. Hands down, he is my favorite Star Trek character and probably my biggest Trek crush (oh how I wish he was allowed to be more pan like that incredibly suggestive first appearance). My cousin once told me one of his acting teachers played a Cardassian on DS9 and I nearly tackled him in my enthusiasm. No, it was not Garak (it was Damar and still cool, to be certain). But Garak became so much of what I liked about DS9. Not just the plots and the lies but really the struggling with morality and with hope and with power. This piece goes into great length what makes the character and DS9 so interesting. "In the Pale Moonlight," fwiw, is also my favorite episode of Star Trek. It has such a powerful frame and so many powerful moments. It's this brick of ideas and truths and ahh now I have to read all the novels mentioned in this article because they sound AMAZING. Seriously, Sisko and Garak on Earth? I will take all the Garak, thank you, and I think this writer will provide! This is another great celebration of Star Trek and just speaks to the Garak fanboy in me who wants so much more. So yes, definitely check this piece out, especially if you're a fan of the best character in Star Trek. Do it!