PodCastle original releases, but that’s not to say it’s does hit above its weight. The story is complex and beautiful, daring and demanding in ways that I don’t often see in short SFF. It deals with transition, with changing a body in magical ways, but the change isn’t just a metaphor for gender transitioning, in part because that’s already literal in the text. Rather, the transition here is more complicated, a way for the main character to reshape her body and get a manner of control and freedom she’s always wanted. It’s stirring and emotionally resonating work, and I’ll get right to my review before I give too much away!
“Strange Things Done” by Tori Curtis (5972 words)
No Spoilers: Audra is a trans woman contacted a bit out of the blue by a middle school friend (who is also a trans woman) about an opportunity. Not a job, though--it’s the chance at wings. All it will take are daily injections, some time off of work, and a whole lot of pain. Nothing new to Audra, and the story explores how it plays out, what it means to her, and how she deals both with the changes and with the way the rest of the world treats her. The piece is wrenching, heavy, and complicated, revealing a web of relationships, all of them forged in fire, stronger than the pressure to break, to fall. The story moves, through difficulty, through pain and fear and uncertainty, but it holds to a resilience born of necessity that’s no less amazing, no less transforming and beautiful for it.
Keywords: Wings, Trans MC, Queer MC, Bodies, Transformations
Review: I do love the moment when Audra is told what she might expect from the drug that will allow her to grow wings, and she just sort of shrugs. Because it’s nothing new. Because she’s already reshaped her body once, already undergone that transformation, so in some ways what’s once more? Of course it’s still a big deal, still hard, still painful, still takes nearly everything she has. But she’s also ready for it, and in some ways I think that was the point of Lacey asking her to do it. Her, over a cis person, over someone who hasn’t gone through that kind of change, that kind of raw hurt and soreness and shift. Lacey asks because it would take someone like Audra, someone who has that bone-deep knowledge of change, to really understand and be able to handle growing wings in the way that’s required to do it best. All the while navigating the things she’s already had to navigate. The changing appearance, the ways people stare, the ways they treat her differently. The fear and the trauma of being seen, but also the joy and the beauty when she is finally able to go out and be herself. It’s such a complex situation. And the story handles it with such compassion and care, telling a story that centers a kind of transition, without disrespecting the journey or the characters. And it’s brilliantly and viscerally told, the changes that Audra goes through squirming and challenging, painful in ways familiar and not. I love the way it shows her expectation of rejection, the way she’s sure that her work will fire her despite everything. And the strange mix of emotions that come when they...don’t. The need to have this clean break from the past while still not wanting to lose everything that she’s managed to gain. And the relationship between Audra and Nic, between Audra and Lacey, are just so well handled, so carefully and wonderfully depicted. The way they support each other, love each other, touch each other--the piece is sensual, sexy, and messy in all the ways I love to see. The characters are struggling but also have things well in hand, because they lean on each other, because they build their support networks strong, and because after surviving so much, what’s a bit more? Only, it’s everything, because it means claiming something freeing and wonderful, lifting and affirming. And I love the piece and think you should definitely check it out! A breathtaking read!