Friday, August 21, 2020

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #66

Art by Joey Jordan
August brings two new stories to Diabolical Plots, and both focus on narrators who have been shaped by the perceptions of others. One, a superhero who is altered based on how other see him, and especially based on racist stereotypes. He has to navigate the push and pull of racism and trying to stay safe while also trying to be a role model for his daughter. The other is shaped more by time, a victim of violence who wants to escape the prison, the gutter that has become their world. But they are seen as a monster, worthy of annihilation, and must deal with their desire meeting the fear they provoke. Both characters, though, find a kind of release and freedom through someone who sees through the outer layers and into their hearts. And before I give too much away, I’ll get to those reviews!


“Finding the Center” by Andrew K Hoe (3558 words)

No Spoilers: The narrator of this story has a superpower...just not one that he might really want. His power is based on perception, where people’s image of him can cause physical and mental transformations in his body. The catch, though, is that the perceptions are mostly racism based. Someone thinks he must be good at math? Knows kung-fu? And he does. But his appearance also comes to mirror racist stereotypes, and the weight of that is heavy indeed, especially after the murder of his wife. Now the single parent of his daughter, he has to avoid a conspiracy to silence him while navigating the treacherous waters of trying to speak to his daughter about racism and the transformations he goes through. It’s a complex read, emotionally fraught while still managing a quick and action-packed pacing, with a deep and heartfelt take on family and identity tucked into its core.
Keywords: CW- Racism, Family, Grief, Transformation, Superpowers
Review: I really love the way this story deals with the transforming nature of stereotypes. The pressure they exert to conform to them. And the way that conforming isn’t even the point, as how a person is perceived can take shape through no real encouragement of their own. The question of how much those perceptions create reality, bend reality, is an interesting and thorny one, because it certainly does effect the ways that people are treated, how they are seen, and how they fit into the fabric of society. The narrator can use that, can in some ways lean into racism in order to benefit from it, but the act carries with it a miasma of guilt and shame, of wanting desperately for it to not be the case while also needing it to be in order to deal with the other systemic issues at play. The narrator feels forced to subject himself to the transforming gaze of racists in order to avoid the murderous intentions of other racists. And of course the family aspect of the story complicates all of that, because the narrator must face the legacy that he’s passing down. How his participation in the racist stereotypes, even for his own safety and success, is a statement that his daughter is hearing. And that instead of that, instead of being shaped by the racist stereotypes, the “bad people,” it might be possible to step outside of them. Which is not without risk, but that it’s maybe not impossible, either, and that it’s really the only thing to try because without trying nothing is going to change. It’s not the racist stereotypes that will save him. It’s only by breaking those, by letting himself be shaped by the positive voices around him, that he’ll be able to really make change. And it’s a touching and moving picture of that, careful and complicated while be fun and quick. A great read!

"For Want of Human Parts” by Casey Lucas (3407 words)

No Spoilers: Bone Pile, well I guess maybe unlives...resides in an alley, in a gutter where its bones have finally come to rest. Aware and able to see the world, though not really able to remember much about their previous life or how they’ve come to be a pile of bones and leaves. But they see a woman almost every day. Wearing bright colors. Bold, and inspiring something in Bone Pile. Kindling something that gets them moving again, assembling themself so that they can reach out, say something to the woman. And though it doesn’t exactly go to plan, there’s something that happens, some connection that’s made. It’s a complex and difficult read at times, complex and careful, with a yearning feeling and an ending that leaves room for a kind of healing.
Keywords: Bones, Undeath, Murder, Bodies, Construction
Review: I like how the story shows this impulse that Bone Pile has to reach out. To try and be seen in a way that’s not going to provoke terror. That’s not going to let people see a monster. But they must deal with the ways they’ve been made into a monster. Through abuse and violence, through erasure and time. Bone Pile has been stripped of even their humanity in the story, their pronouns “it. Though I myself am using they by and large because while the story uses it I feel that’s to underline the way that Bone Pile has been bent and broken, reduced to more of a thing than a person. But the person is still alive, or still vital in some important way. Still struggling to keep going, to fight against the pressure to give in and accept erasure. And they reach out to the woman in the bright color because something about her resonates with them. Something about her life, her defiance, her boldness. Not that it goes super well, and Bone Pile continues to face violence, face people who see only a monster, only something to be rejected, pushed away. Forgotten. It’s on the verge of a tragedy without any break from the sadness, the loss. Except that the woman, however terrified by Bone Pile, does hear something in their pleading voice. Something that resounds in her as well. And so she returns, and she helps Bone Pile reclaim their name, their identity. Helps them to find rest that has for so long been denied to them. It’s a wrenching and difficult story, but with a great feel to it, bordering on horror but resolving into something heartwarming and wonderful. Definitely a piece to spend some time with!


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