Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Quick Sips - Terraform September 2017

So Terraform appears to be back! I guess I missed a story at the very end of August and so this go-round there are four pieces to look at. The structure has changed to pair each story with a piece of nonfiction that explores something from the piece. The nonfiction reads are quite interesting and I must say I think the format plays more to Terraform’s base and larger place in the landscape, though I perhaps wish there was a bit more communication from the editorial staff about what’s going on. Still, for now I’m rather happy that the publication is picking up again and the stories are right back to the normal quality that I expect. It’s a great mix of stories this month, and without further hesitation, I’ll get to reviewing them!


“They, We, Me” by Ryan Bloom (2122 words)

This is a deeply unsettling and sharp story about difference and about bigotry and about family. It features the narration of a brother looking back on an incident surrounding his sister. His sister, who is an android, part of a population that has been emancipated and told that things are apparently better and yet who know, because of the climate they live in, that they are not safe, that things are not really better. It’s a story that takes a keen look at how hate works, and more so how people convince themselves that hate is something that happens somewhere else. That it’s some specter from the rural “out there” and that in cities it doesn’t really exist. People are too liberal and too close, have mingled for too long. And yet the story shows how that hate remains, how no amount of trying paint over it can really erase it. For Adéle, the android in question, has lived most of her life in service to her brother, but takes a job because it’s expected of her. And yet she does not fit the image of androids that people want to see, and is far too good and exposing the hypocrisy of those who are supposedly allies. I like how the story doesn’t shy away from that, from showing how even her brother isn’t free from that hate because it’s not something that is purely personal. People have a way of thinking of hate as personal, as intimate, and yet there is this whole other layer of hate that exists, that is societal, and almost casual. But it exists all the same, is still very dangerous because it’s supposed to blend into the background, and when it’s pointed out, when it’s exposed, it tries to protect itself violently. It’s too big, too pervasive, to take being illuminated lightly. And so the story exposes this hate that is not “out there” but in here. In the cities and every bastion of liberal thought, and in the ways that we internalize a racist culture and racist media, all the long history of white supremacy and human supremacy that is just tacitly accepted by so many. It’s a gut-punch of a story, and one that hits with power and a beautiful prose. It’s amazing and you should definitely check it out!

“Moved” by Chloe Cole (817 words)

This is a moving and rather complex take on what has become something of a Terraform tradition—a story about sex dolls. The piece focuses on Clara, a woman moving away from her partner, Parker, for work reasons. Because of the absence, she offers to buy a Clara Doll, which will be an almost identical likeness of her but without a will or mind, just able to be modeled and mounted. It’s something that makes Clara’s partner’s excitement at the proposition somewhat disturbing, that it’s almost that he would prefer to have Clara unspeaking, able to be posed, just an object rather than a person. But the story goes deeper than just that when Clara receives and opens the package the doll comes in. Confronted with this double, [SPOILERS] Clara finds herself attracted to this version of herself as well. And I love that twist in the story, that in many ways Clara is the one to fall for her double, that there’s something almost natural and right finally having this reflection that she can interact with, that she can bond with, that she can treat as she wants to be treated. Not abusively as it seems that Parker wants to treat the doll, but as an extension of herself, and it’s there that I feel the story makes a statement on identity and the roles we slip into, and what might jar us out of them. Clara, free of concern of Parker, gets to be completely selfish, is confronted with being free and separate from the relationship she’s in that...well, where it’s her expected to make all concessions to make Parker more comfortable and happy. And it’s just a rather strange but engrossing story about intimacy and self and it’s very much worth checking out!

“The Story Is in the Soil” by Justin Lee (616 words)

This is a rather poetic piece about some miners discovering a very strange vein in the Earth—one of blood. Human blood. And immediately upon discovering the vein, the question becomes about exploitation. About how people are going to take advantage of it. The implications of veins of human blood in the Earth aren’t exactly ignored. They are studied and people have theories, but I like how the story focuses on how the primary drive with this discovery is how to use it. Blood is taken up and used—for good causes, of course, to save lives or ease suffering or any number of other things that could use blood. And yet the question of what this is and why this is and how this resource should be considered, used, or left alone, is one that never really gets the attention it needs. And it makes a statement on how people consider natural resources, from oil to gold to anything. Namely, that these things are used, and used to the benefit of humanity perhaps but that the benefit of humanity isn’t something that should be graded and judged on a monetary basis. That there are things that we should have to understand fully before exploiting them, before making the decision of what to do about them. Because, however miraculous we assume something is, there is the lurking fear that we’re not making a decision with all the information. That many people are probably trying to push to make a decision before all the information is available because if people did know the full scope of what this was, of the situation, they’d choose not to exploit this resource. And that is a frightening thing to those who thrive off exploitation, who seek to profit nakedly from it. It’s a stark story and one that offers a sharp look at how we treat nature and the world around us. A fantastic read!

“The Interruption” by Debbie Urbanski (1922 words)

This is a rather powerful story about consent and difference and a woman finding herself in a situation, in a marriage, that doesn’t really suit her. There’s a lot going on in this piece and really part of my enjoyment comes from having read other stories by the author, which share a number of themes but this story has a lot to do with the main character suddenly realizing that she’s lost, that she’s in a place that’s not familiar and she’s not entirely sure how she got there. It’s a feeling that can be rather powerful, especially when it comes to people questioning their life decision, who find themselves a bit out of control, not in any way that’s essentially life-threatening but in a way that’s still dangerous, that they’ve lost agency and direction and don’t know what they’re doing, suddenly saddled with responsibilities and roles that are not just against their natures but actively harmful. Set against that is the way that everyone treats the main character, the way they gaslight her and question her decisions, try to get her to revoke the things she says to try and carve out space for herself. It puts her in the situation of having to fight against the weight of societal expectations, against the ways that people try to push her back into the box that stifles her. And I like how she slowly realizes that the fear of being lost dissipates as she realizes that she doesn’t want to go back, that this is something, probably unconsciously, that she was hoping for, and that it grants her a sort of grace and serenity and power. It’s a story that packs quick the emotional punch while still holding to this hope that it’s not too late, and that sacrificing yourself just because things are expected of you isn’t the only way, that it’s not bad or immoral to want to be a whole person, knowing that without that all anyone can do is uphold and reinforce the structures by which oppression and erasure continue. A great read!



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