Friday, January 1, 2021

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 12/21/2020

Art by Galen Dara
It wouldn’t be Strange Horizons without a little bit of last minute confusion on my part, I guess, as I was expecting a final issue of the year on the 28th that didn’t arrive. Still, I was only expecting on last poem, so it’s not a huge shift. But…wow. I have read and reviewed every issue of Strange Horizons since the beginning of November 2014. In that time, I would hazard to say that the publication has been my personal favorite, at least going statistically off of how many times stories published there have made my recommended reading lists. So breaking the streak of reviewing at Strange Horizons has something of a big impact for me personally. I will still be reading, certainly. And I do want to thank the publication for providing so many amazing stories over the years. I’m just a ball of emotions about it all, and want to say cheers before I get to this, my last comprehensive review of the publication for the foreseeable future. Cheers!


“Come Water, Be One of Us” by Octavia Cade (1942 words)

No Spoilers: The narrator of this story is unnamed, revealed in the first person as they detail the progress of laws that established the personhood of certain rivers around the world. And they draw a line between making rivers people back to the legal decision to make corporations people. And how both things had large consequences, and in many ways conflicting consequences. How making corporations people has led to so much worse--pollution, assault, injustice, corruption. But that making rivers into people have had a much different effect. Because rivers know how to survive, and they don’t put up with the bullshit of corporations. Both of hem personified, it turns out that rivers need corporations much less than corporations need rivers. And it’s a neat, rather revolutionary look at rivers and nature and people.
Keywords: Personification, Rivers, Corporations, CW- Assault, Laws
Review: I love the idea of rivers becoming people, and I believe I heard when certain places around the world did indeed declare certain rivers people legally. Something that really has been opened by corporations being able to claim personhood for the benefits but not for the liabilities. It’s corruption at its finest, a bald attempt to steal power and influence and pervert the spriti of who the law is supposed to protect (people) by extending that to corporations so that they can wring more profits from those they exploit. But with that floodgate open, other things can happen. And the idea of personifying rivers is just so great. A kind of restorative justice. One that takes the methods of corruption but empowers those who will fight against it. By empowering the rivers, people can have an ally who can fight on their terms. The rivers can pull the corporations down, make them think twice, can drown their pawns and their partners. The story has this great feel to it, building a world where there are these puppets, these servants living in the shadows that corporations cast, protected by the legal trickery of corporate lawyers and bolstered by the corruption of officials and judges. But the rivers cut through that. Surge around it. Find who they are looking for and administer their own kind of justice. And to hold the rivers to some sort of punishment for that means that the corporations would have to be liable for their own murders. For all the people they kill and crush in the name of profits. Which will never happen. So now at least there is someone on the side of people who have been victimized by the corporations. Who can shift their focus, honor and venerate the rivers instead, and start to push back harder, arming the natural world with personhood so that it can resist and rebel against the injustice of corporations. It’s a weird, wonderful story that you should totally check out!


"The Believers” by Meep Matsushima

This is a strange and rather haunting piece about the end of the world, about an end of the world, beings like angels who are growing closer. Brighter. Whose song is starting to blot out everything out, push everything to the periphery. In the world, life just sort of moves on, though the Believers go out and try to embrace the light, to be lost in it, to be Saved by it. For the narrator of the piece, a trip to the grocery store with their mother is a kind of adventure, or is supposed to be, but it’s really a kind of grim necessity as their mother low key prepares for things to get bad. They aren’t Believers really, they can see what’s in front of them and not the face of God, but that’s not really a comfort. And I think that’s a lot of what I read into the piece, that line between comfort and discomfort, that tendency that people have to find these patterns and assign meaning to them. To want them to be something, Divine perhaps or at least that will mean that they are saved, that they are safe, that this is good and not this unknown Thing that might be anything. For the narrator, their trip out is full of this kind of horror and curiosity both, observing how the Believers act, wondering if maybe it’s better. And seeing in the end a different pattern, their leg and another person’s bouncing in time to the same song. And it clicks for them a bit how others might feel. It’s a moment of realization but even so I don’t feel like it brings them much comfort or satisfaction. In this situation, the end pressing down, it about the desire to feel better rather than feeling it, knowing that it’s not something that can be faked. The narrator understands this, but is still outside of it, and it’s still this heavy thing, what’s happening a constant barrage of sound and light. A reminder that everything might be ending and even if it is angels, they might not be there for those who don’t believe. And it’s a weird, lovely poem that really takes its time setting the stage and exploring the implications. A great read!


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