Monday, July 4, 2016

Quick Sips - Terraform June 2016

This month's Terraform shakes things up a bit with a return of graphic fiction as well as three stories that use form and voice to very good effect. These are stories about travel and about reaching. In each of the fiction stories there is a feel of people wanting an escape. From a place they can't relate to, from overcrowding and colonial guilt, and from the constant threat of violence and death. The stories confront the reader with how these various situations effect family, effect ambition, and effect life, prompting the reader to examine how the characters respond and how it's possible to respond. Is reconciliation possible, or escape, or even life? These are serious stories that still manage to hold onto moments of humor and comedy. And without talking them to death, I'm going to get to reviewing! 


"Spirit of Home" by José Pablo Iriarte (1672 words)

This story speaks to me of immigration and generations and the way that time and place change families. The story follows Tina, the child of a man who moved to Mars but never really lost his love of Earth. The story shows how the move wasn't really based on any love of Mars but because of the economic realities of their situation. And Tina, who was born on Earth but doesn't identify with it, finds the romanticizing of Earth, the fixation on it, unappealing. And yet when their father becomes ill, needs surgery to survive, Tina ventures out to find a taste from the old planet, from their father's home. I love the way the story situates the characters, Tina as fully of Mars while their father still reaches back, still is unsettled and uncomfortable on the new world. The story shows how generational shifts can lead to distance from the past, from roots, from origins, but how family can be a bridge back, a connection stronger than distance, stronger than time. That the love Tina has for their father is how they end relating back to Earth, not wanting to leave it behind entirely, not wanting to let the old traditions fade, because as much as they are of Mars, they are still from Earth, and there are aspects of that past worth celebrating. It's a joyous story that's undercut by the nostalgia of movement, the hardships of immigration, and the complexity of family. An excellent read!

"Trojan Horses" by Jess Zimmerman (2991 words)

This is a nice story about time and about colonialism and about exploitation and escape. The story centers on Liz, a person who works for a company that creates authentic materials for the past. Because, thanks to runaway population growth, has become colonized by the future. There's a McDonalds in every century on almost every city block. And the story manages to bitingly funny as well and have a fair share of poignant moments, the feelings of Liz to want to be away, to want something they've never had despite the fact that it's not really ethical. And that's a huge reason why I like this story, because Liz agrees that the exploitation and colonization of the past is wrong. That the future shouldn't intrude there. That they're assholes for doing it. And yet it's damage done for them. Damage done and so no real use trying to stop it, because hey, now some of that moral dilemma is lessoned and the crime isn't that much worse, right? Which is brilliantly capturing of the mindset of exploitation, the somewhat Millennial urge to both reject the values of the generation previous but also be rather willing to continue the damage because a feeling of powerlessness to actually make things better. So it becomes about getting away, opting out, finding a simpler situation or more isolated one where there's the illusion of not doing anything wrong. Where the constant reminders of the dire state of things isn't around. It doesn't make what Liz does right in my mind, but it does show why they do what they do, and I think it's a powerful piece because of that. A great story!

"u wont remember dying" by Russell Nichols (1582 words)

This is a story told from the perspective of a young black man shot in the head while going out to the movies, in a world it seems like black people can have their minds copied and restored into cloned bodies for when the police…"accidentally" kill them. It's a shocking piece, told from the character to his future self, who won’t remember dying, who won't remember the trauma of this time, in the hospital, body full of pain, unable to speak. Yeah, fuck, it's a story that doesn't pull its punches, that looks at unity in America, that looks at Whitman and the promise of his works and how that promise, that American promise, isn't made to everyone. That though it might supposed to be, it isn't. The story examines the way that racism and white supremacy make for a fatal combination when paired with the police, as we see today and as the story imagines it progressing, that white Americans would rather enable more police violence and just bring back the people who "didn't deserve to die" as if that was a thing. As if that made it all better, but as the story shows it would be enough to then dismiss the entire idea. To believe with all contentedness that everything was being done. That being murdered by police wasn't a thing. The story is told in a sort of informal poetry, evoking Whitman, evoking text messaging, combining it all to give a look at America. That here, not in the pastoral touches of Whitman but in this hospitalized young man, do our hearts reside. It is his voice that sings America, even if we don't want to listen. Another piece to definitely check out! 

Graphic Story:

"Man of God" by Koren Shadmi

It's the return of graphic fiction to Terraform with this opening part of what I hope will be an ongoing project from the publication. In it, A man stands in the rain, hitchhiking. He's picked up, and things sort of go downhill from there. As the first part of a story, it definitely caught my attention, placing itself in the past, during a World War, where the main character is a man who is somehow dead. There's tons of small flourishes that make the tale instantly strange and compelling. The man's eyes are the first thing I noticed, one dilated and the other not, making him seem in-between or of a dual nature. The conversation he gets in with the traveling Bible salesman rather cements the creepiness of the piece and opens up a few more mysteries while the main character gets to give his opinions on religion, or at least the nature of God and the Devil and all that. I have my theories about what the man's carrying in his bag, so I am super excited to see where things go next. And what starts as a perhaps speculative story firmly entrenches itself in genre by the end, the creepiness paying off already and delivering a slightly unsettling experience. As a whole there's not all that much to comment on yet, but there is enough in my opinion to make this a compelling read. The looming war, both without and within, the religious tones, and the pervasive violence are all well rendered. The art is gorgeous with a lot to see and small details to question about until the next installment drops. A visual feast!

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