Thursday, August 1, 2019

Quick Sips - PodCastle #585

July sees a single new story out from PodCastle, and it definitely dredges up some dark shadows from contemporary fantasy. The piece deals very intimately with eating disorders, and how they can act as infections, as invasions. And how sometimes it's not one a person can effectively fight against. That sometimes it's not something a person wants to fight against. It's a story that I very much think people should enter with an open mind but an awareness of the content warnings. And before I give too much away, let's get to the review!


"Getaway" by Jennifer Hudak (2261 words)

No Spoilers: Leena is a girl brought out to Greenpenny Lake for vacation. Everything is sticky and unpleasant, and following a swim she becomes violently sick. What at first seems like a ruinous end to her vacation, though, turns out to be the fulfillment of a wish she made, and the piece explores the ways that Leena is trying to escape her body. It's a rather difficult piece, dealing as it does with eating disorders and self destruction. It's a viscerally dark story, about a kind of infection, a kind of invasion, and people looking for a happy ending should probably prepare yourself now for...not that. But it deals with a very important topic, and it's definitely a piece to grapple with.
Keywords: Vacation, Illness, CW- Eating Disorders, Bodies, Wishes
Review: Writing stories about eating disorders can be incredibly difficult, because the characters involved are struggling with body image and with anxieties that don't necessarily reflect the physical state of their bodies. The language the story uses comes from insecurity and internalized hate and disgust, which means that it's very loaded against weight. It puts the reader into the place where the only perspective they have is one that's been compromised, that reflects a perspective that sees ugliness and heaviness and food and bodies in these very difficult ways. And the story really doesn't offer a way out of that perspective. Which is an interesting and rather uncomfortable choice, because it shows Leena be devoured by her feelings, wanting to escape her body and getting her wish. Only it's not a triumph. In escaping her body she gives it to a darkness that comes from the lake, and the piece has for me a bit of a "be careful what you wish for" feel to it. Personally I'm not sure how much that works for me, because Leena might be asking to get away from her body, but she's also not really in control of that urge. For me, there's a feeling that she's almost being punished for her disorder, which I'm not entirely comfortable with. It certainly gets into the mind of someone who is not happy with their body, who has this adversarial relationship with themself, and who wants very much to get out, as the title of the piece implies. I think the piece does a great job of capturing where Leena is, and the darkness that surrounds her, that infects her. The ending just leaves me in a very bleak place, where the story feels more horror than anything, and maybe I wasn't ready for that, or maybe it's not supposed to be satisfying, but rather confronting with the reality that not everyone who struggles with an eating disorder "wins" against it. It's a difficult read, but one I very much think people should make up their own minds about, especially given the content.


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