“The Owls of Juttshatan” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew (7024 words)
No Spoilers: Talayruk is a child of peace, raised in ignorance of who her mother is, of who she really is. She grows, fascinated by foxes and owls and certain that there is a greater universe out there that is being denied her. Turns out she’s right, and she takes a new name, Mehaan, when she enters into the world outside, and steps under the weight of her inheritance. The piece is permeated with violence and a military that spans a galaxy and seeks to keep an ordered sort of chaos. Mehaan, meanwhile, must seek to balance a similar order and chaos within herself, with love and hate, tenderness and violence in constant push and pull. The piece is beautiful and intense even as it makes some more philosophical stops along the way.
Keywords: Space, War, Queer MC, Love, Military
Review: I rather enjoy the way the story underlines the ways that background often do not lead people in the ways popular thought would guess. Those from areas of conflict, or poverty, are shown here as perhaps being more empathetic than the main character, who has led a life of relative luxury. Not that she’s a complete monster, but that it shows how she is more easily accepting of the larger order of the universe, the fleet with its violence and brutality. Because she was brought up safe and ignorant and full of longing, she doesn’t care so much about individual suffering. As much as she’s supposed to be a child of peace, I feel like she’s drawn to conflict, and the idea of a galaxy-spanning constant war is almost romantic because of the isolation she lived in, because she’s never had to live on the receiving end of this kind of governing. The piece flows nicely and the romantic elements especially were amazing, Mehaan attracted to her mentor, Indari, a person who tries to prepare her for what’s to come. There is no preparing for some things, though, and the piece shows the way that violence and war consume everything, use even love as fuel for more aggression, more death, more pain. But I do like the way that everything here has such a delicate balance, and a rather false one, this constant war just another way of keeping those really in power in power while keeping everyone else disorganized and easily manipulated. It’s a breathless, shattering setting the story sets up, and it makes for a rather wonderful read!