Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Quick Sips - Terraform November 2018

Three short stories anchor Terraform's releases in November, as well as a strange video thing on Cyber Monday that I won't be looking at. The fiction, though, looks at identity and disaster and, ultimately, isolation. In all of the stories, characters fight for their lives, or what of their lives they can have any control over. The worlds revealed are ones of narrowing futures, where technology or climate or a combination have made it so only the ultra rich have the freedom to do as they want. For everyone else, life is navigating the thin spaces left to them, trying (and mostly not succeeding) to save what they can to the creeping loss effecting the globe. To the reviews!


“I Like Your Bangs” by Lilian Min (1197 words)

No Spoilers: Marcy is a designer who seems to be working with a firm specialized in erasing digital footprints. Getting rid of old social media accounts and posts. Sanitizing a past that might otherwise be embarrassing. For most clients, it’s just a job for Marcy, but when an old online friend meets them ahead of a high profile marriage, it dredges up all sorts of feelings that Marcy has to deal with. It’s a piece that deals with nostalgia and with the earlier days of their internet, when they bonded with people very intimately and intensely, and became a bit obsessed. And though it’s so much later, there’s something shattering about coming back into contact with that past, with those feelings. It’s a fun and short piece with only a light speculative lean, but it deftly moves around the urge to want to edit the past, which deals with regret and a feeling of missed opportunities as much as it’s about embarrassment and propriety.
Keywords: Art, Forums, Social Media, Friendship, Infatuation, Queer MC(?)
Review: For me, the piece has a lot to do with looking back on a past and feeling a friction with the present. Because coming up against a past that you feel like you’ve gotten beyond is like coming up against a ghost. A ghost of your past self, with all of their intentions and hopes and dreams and insecurities. And even if you’re successful, and you’re relatively happy, it’s something that tends to get a person to wonder what might have been. In this case, Marcy seems to have had a crush on this person, on this girl who lived a world away. And they had this friendship that was both casual and intense. That meant a lot to them at the time, but as they grew and went to college they drifted apart, and now are in so entirely different spheres that their meeting brings it all back to Marcy. And I just love how loaded this situation is, so full of longing on Marcy’s part. They are trapped in this moment, reliving so much of their past, finding their way from that past to where they are and just feeling all the things that happened to make them strangers. It’s a rather understated story, and one for me that shines based on how real it feels, how relate-able it is to feel this incredibly strong missed connection, missed chance, and having to just swallow that down. A great read!

“The Last Stand” by Christoph Weber (982 words)

No Spoilers: The narrator of this story is one of three former soldiers who are now the final line of defense between the last California redwoods and a massive line of wildfires. After years of record heat and drought, the natural protections the trees have against the fires have wide flaws, and if the approaching fire reaches the trunks, it’s game over. The piece makes good use of the characters being soldiers—their battle against the fire is just that, complete with bullets and what’s basically a rocket launcher. And it shows what might well happen if climate change isn’t battled through more peaceful means now. Right now. It’s an immediate and tightly paced and rather heartbreaking story about the distance between human survival and a healthy world.
Keywords: Climate Change, Trees, Fires, Soldiers, Guns
Review: I love how this story shows this oncoming fire. And how the narrator and the other soldiers are left to fighting against it with what’s basically traditional munitions. But climate change isn’t something that can really be fought against in that way. The answer isn’t bullet or mortars. It’s not fire with fire. Because all that leaves is char, and desolation. The real message of the story seems to come in the ways that these soldiers fail. Because the only way to stop that fire is to work at it long before it started. And that’s the point where we’re at now, with tools that we can use to fight against climate change, to fight against global warming. So that we can still hold onto the forests. So we can still do more than just survive our own greed and consumption. Because the story recognizes that humanity might survive. But we will lose so many things. Not just the coral, which might already be a lost cause. And not only the redwoods. But so much else. So much of the diversity of our planet. That danger is real, is rushing toward us across the field of time. And we need to actually mobilize against it, to fight back, before we have to lose. It’s a story of warning, effectively and viscerally told, and it makes for a fine read!

“In the Forests of Memory” by E. Lily Yu (1304 words)

No Spoilers: Sunny is an older homeless woman living in a fancy cemetery called a forest of memory. It’s not only home for the dead, but for the artifacts that they’ve left behind—holograms of varying levels of complexity and interactivity depending on how long the deceased had to prepare and how much money they had for such an extravagance. For Sunny, it’s a comfortable enough place, relatively protected and having a drinking fountain and bathroom and little in the way of security. She spends her days among the richly deceased, interacting with the dead when all of their relatives and lovers have stopped showing up. It’s a tired, heartrending look at death and loneliness, memory and value.
Keywords: Holograms, Death, Cemeteries, Memories, Homelessness
Review: There is such a lovely loneliness to this piece. A sense of being forgotten. And how so many spent so much trying to avoid that, trying to etch the image of themselves so deep into the world that it would not fade or be washed away. And how, really, it was a futile project that could have funded, well, living people to stay alive a bit longer. Really, for me, the story of Sunny is one where she is surrounded by the wealth of the dead kings who were certain it would matter that they try to take it with them. Only the people these dead wanted to come and converse with are not here, might never have come to this forest, and all that remains is Sunny who is more interested in the rather concrete certainties of the place, it’s bathroom and its water. She converses with the dead because I think she identifies with how they’ve been forgotten. As she’s been forgotten, as a homeless person, overlooked until the brutal ending that finds her. And I just like how that is this stroke that might erase her but that she was already that way, already gone from memory. Which doesn’t make her life less valuable. It doesn’t make what happened to her less tragic. But it does sort of underline that what these people in the forest tried to do in leaving something behind isn’t something they’ll ever get to enjoy and it’s not something that people remember. It’s just as easy to destroy with the swing of a crowbar, only it was only a hologram to begin with. The sadness is that more doesn’t go in to valuing the living, and making sure people have food and shelter, while so much is being spent on the immortality of the rich, which is only ever an illusion. A great read!


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