Friday, June 1, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 05/21/2018 & 05/28/2018

The end of May brings one story and two poems to Strange Horizons (as well as a bunch of nonfiction you should check out), and it’s an emotionally resonating bunch of SFF that centers difference, isolation, and joy. Here we find characters who don’t quite fit in, who are able to see something, to feel something, that they’re not really supposed to. For some, this puts them into the realm of monsters, deserving of pain and isolation. For others, it means being able to make lives easier for people, but being limited in how much you can do. For all of them, the point seems to be to reach for a place where they can be fulfilled and happy, even if perhaps that place doesn’t exist yet. It’s a great mix of fiction and poetry, so let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Gabriella Eriksson

“Salt Lines” by Ian Muneshwar (2211 words)

No Spoilers: Ravi is a gay immigrant from Guyana, mostly estranged from his family and suddenly faced with a creature from the stories of his childhood—a jumbie. Growing up, it was a monster to be frightened of, a creature of the darkness who was defeated by lines of salt by the doors, which the Jumbie would have to count in individual grains. Understated and achingly beautiful, the story explores the space that family takes up, and the absence that they leave. It looks at the legacy of growing up surrounded by stories that are aimed at the monstrosity that you hold within, terrified both of it and what others would do if they found out. It’s a slow, sensual read that’s loaded with sorrow and grief even as it shines with hope and joy.
Keywords: Queer MC, Monsters, Family, Estrangement, CW- Anti-Queer Violence, Salt
Review: There’s something just so heartbreaking about this story and the way the main character has to face his past. Because coming from a place where to be gay was to be a monster, was to have people be justified in murdering you in some of the most grotesque ways possible. And then to have the courage and the strength to still come out and be open with his family, and find that these stories are still there, a barrier between him and his parents, is just rending as hell. So that now, distant from his family and living his own life, he’s still being hurt by those stories, by the memories, by the knowledge that to so many people that he cares about, he’s just a monster. And they don’t want anything to do with him, would draw salt lines by their doors to keep him away. It shows just how much family can fuck with queer people, especially family who were supposed to understand and accept and love. Who were supposed to be okay with everything. Who were supposed to still want to be a part of his life. And here the past comes back, this story, this monster, this jumbie. And Ravi finds that he’s repulsed and drawn to it at the same time, runs away but ultimately invites it in, because for all he’s grieving for a family that has largely cut him out, he’s still who he is, and still loves who he is. He’s conflicted, yes, but he also celebrates himself, in the way he moves, in the pleasure that he experiences. It’s a moving and powerful story, soft and suffocating but revealing this richness of emotion, conflict, and identity. A wonderful read!


“Astrocyte” by L. W. Salinas

This poem looks at the micro and the macro of the universe, from the cells of our bodies to our bodies as cells, everything collected in a dance of life that might, even now, be operating on a scale we cannot perceive, and that cannot perceive us. And in some ways I feel the poem is about the construction of the universe, every organization of life something like the business of cells making up something larger, something living. That as we are made up of tiny pieces that are also tiny wholes, so too might we be a part of something bigger, and that might be part of something bigger yet, and what would it be like to come aware of life at the next level up, and what might it mean for us as parts of some larger system to realize that? For me, it points to a sort of unity that we might share, that we are all part of something bigger than ourselves, tiny specks of live and yet not insignificant or unimportant. Indeed, the poem for me revels in this unseen importance, the way that we make up this larger being while that being knows nothing of us. That it’s a kind of wonder, a kind of magic, a way to see the complexity of the universe in everyone. That maybe, inside us, there are universes as well, unique and beautiful and vast. That we contain multitudes as well, as Whitman said, and that it links us to something huge and fantastic. And really it’s a short, tight read that’s so worth spending some time with. Go check it out!

“Promethea” by Nic Wassell

This is a moving poem about inspiration and invention, about the whispering voice of the gods and the difference it can evoke in some people. In particular, it’s about the mother of the narrator of the piece, and how she creates things snatched from the sleeping mind of a god. How she transforms these whispers into designs and things that help her and help those around her. More than that, though, I feel the poem is also some about the price of this ability, this gift. Having a mind that can see the future so clearly, that can see how things lead to things, and yet not be able to really skip the steps to get there. Knowing in some ways that she will never get to see the most exciting inventions, because it’s too far off, too far removed from her current level of technology. And I feel that’s a really interesting way of framing how it might feel to be a person who can just see where these things lead. The narrator’s mother can just listen to this voice of the god where many cannot, and it could be seen as inspiration, as genius. It gives her joy, but it also brings her sorrow and it isolates her from others, because everyone else can’t keep up, can’t see what she does. She’s someone who wants to live in a future when these first inventions have already been made, but is cut off in time from that. Stranded, the desire and the want take their toll on her, and the poem shows what she pays for her genius. It’s a moving, evocative poem that does a beautiful job world building and to me reveals the character of this mother as both blessed and cursed with what she can do. A fantastic read!


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