Monday, August 5, 2019

Quick Sips - Terraform July 2019

It's a rather brief month of stories from Vice's Terraform, with just two stories (one of them very short). But what the offerings lack in total word count they certainly make up for in impact, unfolding in a ways meant to challenge and terrify The futures here are cautionary but nothing without hope—bleak, but not without beauty. One acts as a sort of fairy tale for the age of family separation and immigration abuses, where a young girl and a drone must navigate a world hungry for tragedy. In the other, a school puts on its best face, which just happens to be one full of teeth. The stories are heavy but leave room for hope, and definitely tackle issues that need to be addressed. To the reviews!


“Reunion” by Shannon Chamberlain (2139 words)

No Spoilers: This piece unfolds a bit like a broken fairy tale, half from the perspective of a child separated from her parents and half framed as reports about a rogue drone that was supposed to deliver her to and from school. The piece takes the darkness and horror of immigration and the practice of separating families and essentially stealing children and wraps it in the familiar confines of fable, so that the main character is like Red Riding Hood, lost in a dangerous place, having to rely in some ways on her own wits and the kindness of others. I’d hesitate to call the piece fun, given the subject matter, but there is a hope to it, a brightness that speaks to the magic that happens that defies the broken and corrupt system in place to hurt those seeking a better life and allows for a happily ever after after all.
Keywords: Immigration, Family, Drones, Schools, Separation, CW- Abuse
Review: I love that the story takes something so immediate and wrenching as the immigration/refugee crisis at the U.S. border and unfolds as a fairy tale. Because it’s the right mix of dark and miraculous, where the setting is appropriate full of wolves and monsters, and yet this little girl manages to endure and navigate when she’s separated from her parents. And the framing cuts back a little bit on the intensity of the violence going on here, which might be necessary. It puts it in a familiar setting and twists it, allowing for reader to feel rather viscerally what’s going on without having to face the very gritty realities of it. And I think that’s important, that’s good, because reading about the torture of a child is different than reading a fairy tale of a child facing what is definitely torture. It conveys what’s without having to present the stark reality of it, without having to actually depict that kind of violence, instead relying on the form to push through whatever resistance the reader might have to get them to see this girl as human, as a child in danger. So that when the child’s fairy godmother, in the form of a malfunctioning delivery drone, decides to act outside the law, we are confronted with a different truth—that it takes magic for justice to prevail in this system. Or a cascading technological glitch, but that’s essentially the same thing here. And how fucked up is that? What the story does for me is cast the central issue in clear terms, as a human struggle against evil, against the wicked step-parents, the wolves and monsters, the crushing poverty and hunger that pulls children out into the woods and away from whatever safety we get to enjoy. And it’s a powerful and lovely story of a reunification and joy, one that does seem like something of a fairy tale because of how unlikely it is to find a happily ever after in our current moment. But it’s very good and very much worth spending time with. Go check it out!

“Seeking a Contemporary Education for My Daughter” by Kendall Krantz (514 words)

No Spoilers: This piece follows a tour of a rather unique kind of school. Or, perhaps that’s not precisely right, given in this setting it seems like this school represents only the next step in the logic chain of treating schooling like a product that parents buy for their children. It’s a sentiment that’s gaining in popularity in a world where schools claim to sell success to the highest bidders, promising to sculpt children into “the right kind of person” in order to make them able to succeed in the cut throat landscape of our current and future hell. And the story explores the implications of that, showing the vast technological advancements that walk hand in hand with greater and greater abuses of younger and younger children. It’s a quick read, peppered with sharp detail and vivid in its assessment of the direction education is moving.
Keywords: Schools, Food, Parenting, Recruitment
Review: I really like how the story builds in a very short space, focusing on a school tour that could be part of college admissions but...isn’t. At least for me part of the horror of the story comes from the fact that I feel the implication is that these are very young children, that this might even be a preschool where the children will be taught things like the alphabet, but where really they’re being indoctrinated at as young an age as possible to accept and excel at the system as it is, at its most broken and corrupt. Where it’s not ability but trajectory that matters, not what you know but who you’re connected to, the school offers parents the siren call of helping get their kids “ahead.” Which I feel means that they are being tempted with a kind of promise, that their children will be spared the horrors that are coming down the line. That the disasters of the future, the ones that we’re all very much aware of, will at least spare them. It might as well be a tour of heaven, for as much as the piece implies that those accepted in will be the elect, spared the conditions that are making it so that everyone else’s kids are going to have a lifetime of suffering. Not that these kids will have much better. These parents are selling their children’s childhoods for the hope that they will, in turn, thrive thanks to nepotism, inequality, and the certainty that only some will be able to make it through the coming troubles. It’s incredibly dark and sharp, showing how far parents are willing to go for what they think is “the best for their kids” but which is really just their own way of not wanting to fix the system that they broke, or at least have given up on fixing. It’s bleak but it’s powerful, and it’s very much worth checking out. A great read!


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