Wow, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #164 is a short one for the publication. At least, the things I'm looking at here aren't all that much. I'm not looking at the novel excerpt, which would have made this more typical in length to other BCS issues. Not that I'm complaining. With everything out there to read, sometimes having a short issue is a good thing. So here we go!
"Everything Beneath You" by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam (4697 words)
A story primarily concerned with gender and choice and I have to say that I like it though it does seem mostly a way to make a point rather than a way to tell a story. But then, that's not always a bad thing. I like that the main character is a woman who wants to be a woman but free of the expectations of being a woman. I like that she refuses the easy answer of becoming a man, and that she brings a confusion and a complexity to gender that some people see as needless. Because the more complex solution is often the right one. So what if there's some confusion at first. People are supposed to be equal to it, are supposed to be able to deal with it. Things are not supposed to be easy, simple. It's kind of unfortunate that she has to give up on her life with her love. I'm not a huge fan of that. Seems to me like she wouldn't give up just because she's told it's impossible. Maybe I'm wrong. But I want to see her get it all. Being told that you can't have everything isn't quite what I want to hear. Because she's right, there is no reason why she can't. It's an arbitrary concession forced on her because she's not the one with power, because the person with power is male and thinks things should be simple. I want to see her succeed in more than just story. But this story is still good, with a solid flow and an epic, mythological feel to it. Good stuff to think about.
"The Metamorphoses of Narcissus" by Tamara Vardomskaya (3231 words)
A story about transformations, as a dancer is transformed first into art, and then into something more. Around her, a nation is transformed from peace to war and back, but different. At first obsessed with an edgy artist, the main character gets swept away by the war and becomes a nurse, falls in love and marries an injured man, and then has to face the life she might have had if the war had not erupted. Somehow, in all the sadness of the story, I felt that it was hopeful, that it was saying that people are, ultimately, more than art, that art is aspiring to show something but isn't really something that can make up for life. It's interesting, and rather melancholic, looking at the lessons that war teaches, how is stripes away artifice and narcissism and how for the main character it teaches her what to value, gives her some perspective. An interesting story, and definitely worth checking out.