Thursday, January 18, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #242

Beneath Ceaseless Skies opens up its 2018 fiction with a duo of musical and magical pieces. Focusing on harmony and discord, inspiration and creativity, the two pieces find characters whose professional ambitions are somewhat at odds with how their society treats them. They are good at what they do, driven by the art and the joy of music and yet finding that at every turn they need the patronage of powerful men in order to be taken seriously. In order to be safe. And both stories explore what happens when being safe stops being motivation enough for staying silent, and what happens when the right song bursts forth into the world. To the reviews!


“Suite for Accompanied Cello” by Tamara Vardomskaya (5933 words)

No Spoilers: Rielle is a musician who has had to face the realities of being a woman, as well, always having to sacrifice her art for her family instead of the other way around. When a man from her past reappears with a special offer, it might mean a chance to get back into music, but there are surprises aplenty waiting for her. Haunting and flowing, the story weaves itself around music and freedom and the pressure that women must work under to express themselves in a society that much prefers them seen and not heard.
Keywords: Music, CW- Loss of a Child, CW- Pregnancy, Rivalry, Freedom, Automation
Review: This story takes a careful look at the expectations that are put on women, and especially women creatives, who are expected to give up their passions and replace them with obedience and devotion to family. The story follows Rielle as she takes a job that is something of a trap for her because it allows her freedom to experience her music once more. And because, really, there is no way to avoid being trapped. She’s tasked with accompanying a young woman in a music competition, but the motives of the man who hired her are petty and vengeful. I love how the story sets this up, Rielle and her student, Galethia, caught between the desires of so many men. Pulled this way and that because they’re expected to obey all of them at the same time, somehow, and if they cannot it is their fault and they are punished. Rielle deals with the injustices of her life as she must, because her station and situation give her little other choice, because even the men that are supposed to love her and protect her are dangerous, and if they feel like she’s doing something against their purposes then they might retract their protection, might even attack themselves. And yet still she and Galethia push forward, against the threats of violence, against the stifling criticism and double standards. They push forward, not to win some prize, but to be free in their own hearts, secure that the injustice they face is not their fault, and that they can still have something of their own. It’s a beautiful and moving piece, hopeful and heartbreaking at the same time. Go read it!

“An Aria for the Bloodlords” by Hannah Strom-Martin (10040 words)

No Spoilers: A maestro named D’Isle is all set to put on the opera he’s dreamed about, only to be drawn into a much more dangerous performance that will have far greater consequences than winning the festival honors. With a great music-based world building and a solid action, the piece focuses on the drive to create and to rebel, to push boundaries, and to reach for artistic (and political) freedom. Gripping, a little weird, but viscerally satisfying.
Keywords: Music, Aristocracy, Opera, Rebellion, Sword Fighting
Review: There’s something about this story, about its music and flow, that I find a bit irresistible. Perhaps I’m just a sucker for the way that it builds the main character, who seems to want nothing more than patronage from the aristocracy of the setting, into someone who recognizes in himself all the makings of a rebel, of a revolutionary. After all, the main character here isn’t exactly the most popular, even as he creates operas that could put him into the upper crust. If he plays his cards right, and impresses the right people—and yet I love how at his core he’s always doing things not really to suck up to the aristocracy, but to find as much freedom of expression that he can. For all that it seems at first that he’s in lockstep with the Bloodlords, with those who rule this setting under the brutal threat of the Minsters, strange creatures that kill anyone subverting the norm, his actions belie the truth of his character—that he’s drawn to resistance, to valuing people not by the strength of their blood but by their spirit. And when, ultimately, he’s put in a position where he needs to choose between his security and his principles, he can’t really bring himself to sell completely out. It’s a lovely story with a swelling tide of justice and hope, of resistance and revolution. And it’s a thrilling read, with monsters and music and swords flashing. There’s magic and there’s careful planning and there’s the moment when it all comes together, fragile and powerful and desperate, and...well, you should probably read the story to find out exactly what happens. But needless to say I am a fan of the story and highly recommend you go out and read it immediately! A fantastic read!


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