July 2018 Short Fiction Reading Part I

Hello everyone! I may have actually read some of these in June (I continue to procrastinate horribly on reviews), but better late than never.

“The Wild Ride of the Untamed Stars” by A.J. Fitzwater

“The Wild Ride of the Untamed Stars” is a cute story, but I don’t know if it made a lasting impact on me. Then again, does everything have too? A privateer capybara is racing for the Rat Queen’s hand, only her girlfriend (a marmot) has joined the race as well. It’s whimsical, and I did see it as a different take on the fae. It’s also a happy queer story, FYI.

“We Will Be All Right” by Carolyn Ives Gilman

So this story made me super angry.

It’s set in a future with some sort of STD that only kills men. Women are carriers. The main character is the mother of a son — he was an accidental pregnancy from a sexual encounter that left his father dead. Now her son has a girlfriend, and the protagonist is all angsty about the fact that this girl’s surely going to kill her baby by having sex with him.

There’s a lot of Oedipal type stuff going on in this story, but there’s a lot of background anti-queer stuff too. First off, it’s very gender binary with no recognition of trans people. Secondly, all men are treated as heterosexual… although I guess you could argue that some of the surviving men aren’t, but… here’s the quote about them:

“They keep to themselves to avoid the speculative looks. We should not make pariahs of them, but we can’t help ourselves, since they call to mind the other ones who deserved to live. The ones who are wanted die, the outcasts and the odd survive.”

That’s the point where this story reached “I can’t even” for me. I was already pissed off, but that quote took it to another level. The only reason I finished this story was so that I would feel justified in ranting about it here.

“The Greatest One-Star Restaurant in the Whole Quadrant” by Rachel K. Jones

This story was dark but also really funny. I’m sort of in love with it. It’s easily my favorite in this whole roundup.

So these androids are trying to escape human-occupied space, but the ship they stole turned out to be a traveling restaurant (sort of like the futuristic, space-ship version of a food truck?). To successfully escape, they have to pretend to be an actual restaurant, even though they’ve never cooked before and practically none of them have taste buds. Also, where are they going to get the ingredients?

I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that they begin serving their own human DNA parts as meat in the restaurant. Normally cannibalism really squicks me out, but I didn’t get too bad a reaction to this story. I need to reflect more on that. Anyway, “The Greatest One-Star Restaurant in the Whole Quadrant” is a darkly humorous story that ultimately does value the power of creation.

“A Coward’s Death” by Rahul Kankia

I’m not sure what to think of this story. It’s clearly inspired by history, specifically the Roman Empire. An emperor demands that every family in his colonies give up one son to be enslaved for ten years. Any town that refuses is slaughtered utterly. As an individual, what do you do in these circumstances? And how does everyone else deal with an individual’s refusal?

“A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Lighthouse of Quvenle the Seer” by Lina Rather

The protagonist of this story has traveled to the Lighthouse of Quvenle the Seer, who can tell you your future. Only, the futures she predicts are always full of tragedy. So why would someone go to her?

“I Sing Against the Silent Sun” by A. Merc Rustad and Ada Hoffman

I generally like these authors work, but for some reason, “I Sing Against the Silent Sun” left me cold. I don’t have too much more to say than that.

In the future of this story, a galactic, god-like being is trying to make the entire universe silent. When it conquers solar systems, it cuts out tongues, eradicates songs, poetry, literature. One poet has stood up to it before, but what will resistance cost them?

“The Man in the Crimson Coat” by Andrea Tang

I liked this story quite a lot. The protagonist is a girl raised by a cyborg, who tries to make the world a better place… through some violent methods. Now she’s on the hunt for him. The heart of this story is the complicated parent/child bond — what will they do for each other and what will they do to achieve what they believe to be the right thing?

“A Space of One’s Own” by Steve Rasnic Tem

I listened to the audio of “A Space of One’s Own” over at Clarkesworld, and at the very end of the story, the narrator, Kate Baker, was discussing it and mentioned something I hadn’t even thought of (highlight to read): that the Earth was under the control of aliens who were culling the human population and using them for their own ends. It’s an interesting theory that explains some of what I thought were world building holes.

“A Space of One’s Own” takes place in an unnamed city where space is at a premium. All but the mega-rich live in minuscule apartments (the size of a closet) that shift and change to compress when one shift goes on and expand when another shift comes home. Commutes take hours and are standing room only. Essentially, it’s a dystopic future about cities and overpopulation. Of course, I had questions. Why would so many people continue to come to the city when conditions were so terrible? And why would people not leave? Baker’s theory handily explains both and really gives me a new viewpoint on the story.

However, it was also easy to predict the path this story would go down. It’s the staple for dystopian literature with male protagonists: he’d meet a girl who’d make him question things. No surprises there, and honestly, I’m rather bored with the trope. So I’ve got a mixed reaction to this story all around.

My favorite by far is “The Greatest One-Star Restaurant in the Whole Quadrant.”

Do any of you have short stories you’d recommend? I’ve been listening to a lot on audio, so if you know any that have been made into a podcast, that’d be even better!

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. God, I am SO tired of SFF stories where the premise is about a thing only affecting one gender. Like a DAMN FOOL, I always hope that this time the authors will know enough to include trans or nonbinary people in the story, and I am always let down, I am like Charlie Brown and Lucy and the football. I have a post coming up next week about my recent short fiction reading, and it kicks off with me just having a gripe about this very thing in relation to a story that pissed me off in Apex Magazine recently. Blah.

    1. Ohhh, I think I know the story you’re talking about. “Pregnant Man Support Group”? Yeah, my first thought about that title was that it was about trans men.

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