|Art by Dario Bijelac|
"Pidgin" by Katrina S. Forest (1005 words)
This is a story about language, a woman on Earth trying to communicate with a colonist who can't seem to communicate with anyone, who keeps trying to touch people's foreheads. As it's making people uncomfortable, the language expert is called in, but she discovers quickly that what the man is doing doesn't really count as any language she's encountered before. Which doesn't mean that it isn't a language, and with admirable flexibility she presses forward and learns of something completely new, completely novel, a way of communicating that uses feelings and not words. It's a fun and charming story, that these people, both human, are so separated because of their languages and yet still find a way to communicate, to interact. There is a sadness to it, too, because for all that they begin to understand each other, for all that they experience that breakthrough with joy and excitement, they are not trying simply to communicate. That was just the pretense for the language expert being called in, the real reason being that they wanted to know what the colonist wanted. And they find out, and it's a little bittersweet. Still, the story is interesting, the trial and error of trying to start a conversation with nothing really shared. A fine way to start the month!
"Ships and Stars and Childhood Things" by Gwendolyn Kiste (993 words)
This is a rather nostalgic story of a girl growing up in the space between summers, on a station only used in the summers, on a station where she's only really alive in the thin spaces when there are other people visiting, the tourists and ships' crew always the same age when they arrive and her always older. She begins to notice a captain who arrives every ten years, who she imagines is someone wild, untamed, free of stations and ageless, but as time passes she realizes that it's not what she thinks, that what she's searching for isn't the wide splendor of immortality or the exotic reaches of the galaxy. The story is achingly told, this woman suffocating in her life, in the life chosen for her though she has never wanted it. That she is like Peter Pan in reverse is interesting, constantly aging while everyone else seems to stay the same. It's a neat twist on what is more often the trope, and I liked how she confronts the illusions born from hope of escape. And I love the ending, the way that she decides to face herself and face the fancies of her youth and the way she escapes. It's a bit of nebulous ending, not quite certain of where or how, but there is a strong feeling of completion to it, of satisfaction, of finding something long missing. It seems a simple enough story, but there's plenty to unpack, and the effort is well worth the payoff. Definitely one to read.
"The Wedding Gig" by John League (974 words)
Rounding out the original fiction this month is a story about a band performing at a wedding in a world that has survived Fever, an affliction that has left a good number of people scarred, marked by their illness. The main character, the trumpeter of the band, is one of the survivors, though two other members of the band died from the sickness, and she is marked in more ways than one, both by the scars that twine up her arms and around her chest and by the loss of what she had, the loss of her sound as well, which makes her quiet as she plays, timid. [OKAY PROBABLY LOTS OF SPOILERS NOW] She doesn't want to be at the wedding, especially when she hears that the bride will be wearing a Fever dress, which she imagines is a depressing affair. Then she sees it, and instead of hiding the scars of Fever it celebrates them, stuns with them, shows them as beautiful, as testaments to survival and strength. And the main characters gets something of herself back, seeing that dress. I loved the way the bad interacts, how each member has life and personality though they aren't really playing together well yet. And I like how the story shows that the scars are not marks of loss only, but something else, something beautiful and wild, something to be respected and admired and not pitied. It's an interesting way to frame the marks left behind by sickness, but a fascinating one, and here's another story worth spending some time with, both fun and lifting with a great visual style that had me wanting more. Good stuff!