Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Quick Sips - March 2016 part 1

I'm changing my plans a bit today and looking at the first two stories released so far this month. Because of the downturn in a few key publications, I'm a bit short on things to review and adding anything more is not the best of ideas (because certain publications are coming back full force soon enough). Luckily for me there's still plenty to read and I can let some of these reviews breath a little more. The first half of March sees two stories from Tor, both of which highlight difference and hurt and loneliness. They are not happy stories. They are stories about wounds that are never really whole, about losses that can't really be erased. And they're very, very good. So let's get to it!
Art by Rovina Cai


"Listen" by Karin Tidbeck (4289 words)

To me this story is about language and sensation and communication. The story is a sequel to an earlier story that appeared at Tor in 2013, featuring both Aino and Petr, but they are more secondary characters here, are replaced in emphasis by Mika, who is an interpreter for a people whose speech seems to fade from people's memories. Communication and difference remain strong themes of the story, with Mika sacrificing a lot to remain interpreter, refusing to take medication for his sickness because it would leave him unable to interpret and would leave him unemployed. More than that, though, he is almost addicted to the sound of the beings he works for, to the completeness of it, the perfection of it. He pushes himself to be near it even as it hurts him, even as he sinks further and further into distress and loneliness. The sense of strangeness about it all is strong, that the story is a meeting of all these people shaped by modifications and place and time, paying prices because they are stuck but also because something about the experience is compelling, addictive. They harm themselves in the pursuit of something they're not quite sure of, and like Mika it leaves them all different. Song and language in the story become tools of both creation and destruction, powerful and beautiful but edged and dangerous. It's a great read, interesting and complex with a look at difference and healing and how people experience language. Definitely go check it out!

"A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers" by Alyssa Wong (3477 words)

Well fuck. Okay, hold on, tears happening. Deep breathe. Okay, here we go. This story swirls around loss and difference, trying to control something that is beyond control. It's a story about sisters and about harm. In the story Hannah and Melanie are sisters who share powers over time and the environment, powers that link them even as others things keep them separate. [OKAY AND SPOILERS] Melanie is a trans woman, though, and though Hannah treats her with respect their parents do not and the other people in Melanie's life don't really which creates a gap between them despite how close they were growing up. And Hannah gets away from home and begins a relentless drive to make something of herself, a drive to try and make up somehow for the treatment Hannah has suffered. It comes to a head when something terrible happens with Melanie and Hannah wants so desperately to make it right that she breaks the world. Again and again. And I love the story for the pain of it, for the slow realization that what Hannah is doing has little enough to do with Melanie and everything to do about control. That it can't be fixed by Hannah trying to take it over, trying to make it right. That thinking of it that way only hurts Hannah and Melanie more. That no amount of wishing can give Hannah Melanie's pain, and even if Hannah tried to control everything for Melanie's benefit it wouldn't mean Melanie had any control. About her body or the way people treated her. It's a complex and deep look at hurt and at societal ills and it works very well for that. It's uncomfortable and tragic and dark and keep a box of tissue handy while reading this one. But don't miss it. An amazing story.

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