My brain last month has been a dandelion clock, and every day is a gust of wind that scatters me on the breeze. Things I’ve been doing this month instead of writing this short fiction review post include: experimental cooking; laundry; day trips; playing Flight Rising; enduring computer meltdowns; installing Ubuntu; staring into space.
But better late than never, here is my monthly post of micro-reviews of all the short fiction I read in
the past month April. In short, these were:
- So Much Cooking by Naomi Kritzer
- The Contemporary Foxwife by Yoon Ha Lee
- How the God Auzh-Aravik Brought Order to the World Outside the World by Arkady Martine
- Sounding the Fall by Jei D. Marcade
- Lamia Victoriana by Tansy Rayner Roberts
- The Knobby Giraffe by Rudy Rucker
- Given the Advantage of the Blade by Genevieve Valentine
- If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Xia Jia
Reviews follow beyond the jump.
So Much Cooking by Naomi Kritzer
Epistolary stories don’t have to just be told through letters any more, not in the internet age. This story (the second Kritzer story I’ve read, after Cat Pictures Please) takes us through an apocalyptic situation through the medium of recipe posts on a cooking blog.
I love the conceit of the cooking blog. I was concerned at first it would come off forced, but my fears were unfounded. The framing device is central to the theme. This is a tense, funny, sometimes sad, story about love and care in dire circumstances, expressed through that most beloved human need, food.
The Contemporary Foxwife by Yoon Ha Lee
At this point I’m immediately sold on basically anything by Yoon Ha Lee, and that goes double if it’s got ‘fox’ in the title. In this quiet, thoughtful story, Kanseun answers her door one day and invites a foxwife into her life—that is, someone whose only desire is to serve as housekeeper, who is definitely magical, and who may or may not be a small god.
Once again Lee enchanted me with his alchemy of science fiction and fantasy tropes, and further hooked me with the quiet romance of this asexual love story. Plus the foxwife is goddamn adorable.
How the God Auzh-Aravik Brought Order to the World Outside the World by Arkady Martine
This is the story of a god and her sister. A constructed myth about the turning of the wheel of fortune and the bloody cruelty of love and envy, this story feels a thousand years old whilst being wholly original.
Sounding the Fall by Jei D. Marcade
In a future of constant connection and progressive gender politics, a monk with a chequered past speaks with a young criminal about artificial intelligence and god. I love post-binary futures, so I was already on board with this story within the first few paragraphs. Also, though an atheist myself, I enjoy visions of the future which still contain religion. As integral a part of culture as it is, it’s odd to imagine a world without it. This is a contemplative little story with eerie undertones so faint you barely feel them, like the hairs raising on the back of your neck.
Lamia Victoriana by Tansy Rayner Roberts
Romantic-with-a-capital-R queer vampires do the Grand Tour in this wonderfully historically accurate story by Tansy Rayner Roberts. It’s about love and desire and family, and one asshole with a saviour complex.
The Knobby Giraffe by Rudy Rucker
When you start messing with the fabric of reality, shit gets weird. I have to admit, I thought the title of this story would probably make sense once I’d read the whole thing—but it doesn’t. Nothing makes sense—and maybe that’s the idea.
Who knows. What I can say about this story is that it’s about love.
Given the Advantage of the Blade by Genevieve Valentine
What if you put all the fairytale women in a room with weapons? What would happen? Would anyone ever make it out alive?
I have to be honest: I didn’t like this story. On reflection, I can see it’s a wry breakdown of fairytale adaptations (SFF as a genre does so love its fairytale adaptations) with a lot of attention to detail. But it ain’t my thing. I’m sorry to say I found it boring and too self-aware. But hey, that’s just me.
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Xia Jia, translated by Ken Liu
I was excited to start this story by multiple-award-winning author Xia Jia, especially given that her short story Tongtong’s Summer was one of my very favourite stories of 2014 (and made me cry buckets). However, I fear this story might be a little too meta for my untutored brain.
A quiet librarian falls for a poem, but the poet seems to have been erased from history. In investigating, she finds more than just the answer she was looking for. The story seems to me a commentary on literary commentary itself, and I’d hazard at Chinese literary commentary in particular. As such, it sailed straight past me, and I couldn’t really connect on an emotional level.