Sunday Short: Aliette De Bodard's Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight

Sunday, September 18, 2016 0


This week's Sunday Short is Aliette De Bordard's ‘‘Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight’’, published in Clarkesworld. It was nominated for a Locus Award and won a BSFA for best short fiction

The story, set in the far future in Aliette De Bodard's Xuya universe, takes part in three parts with three different viewpoints, each introduced with a cup of tea. All three are individuals mourning the loss of Duy Uyen, a biological mother to two and colleague to another.

First, Quang Tu - the firstborn son of Duy Uyen - is mourning the death of his mother and the loss of her memory implant. In this future, memory implants are typically inherited by children, but Duy Uyen was working on research important to the empire and the implants are passed along to her colleague Tuyet Hoa instead. The second part focuses on Tuyet Hoa as she adjusts to someone else's memories and continues the work that is Uyen's legacy. Last, we see the perspective of The Tiger in the Banyan, a mindship who was Duy Uyen's child. 



Image result for cup of tea


I did find the grief of each perspective poignant. Everyone grieves a loss differently, and even the least 'human' of perspectives still rings with truth in this story. As a mother now, the scenes of Uyen's children grieving got me in the gut.

Image result for cup of teaThe science was distracting, though. As interesting an idea of growing food by starlight might sound, there are many other low light food plants that could have been the starting point for any serious research into creating a staple to grow in space. The idea that a human mind could be set up to work as a mind ship for many times longer than a human could live was also distracting -- how is one life prolonged but not the other?

Overall, it was an interesting peak in an alternative history universe, but I was distracted by some of the details. I was left a little unsatisfied on the story front, as not much happened - no action, not much character growth; I am not sure if it would have been aided by a focus on just one perspective.

Favorite quote: Because the answer to Professor Duy Uyen’s death, like everything else, was deceptively, heartbreakingly simple: that no one was irreplaceable; that they would do what everyone always did—they would, somehow, forge on.

I'm baaaaaack (again)!

Saturday, September 17, 2016 0


So. I took a hiatus. (Can it be called a hiatus if I have taken more months away from the blog than I've actually written? I am going to say Yes.)

Things happened. I delivered my second daughter in January, went back to work in May, developed a hardcore coffee habit, and have generally wondered where the time has gone since. But I have kept reading*!

I am not sure what kind of pace I will actually be able to maintain on this blog. Certainly it probably wont match those who post a few times a week or even more than a few times a month. I don't know if I'll review everything (or even most novels) that I read. But I do miss writing here, and I do want to get back to it. So I am going to try again!

But I am going to start small and manageable by bringing back the Short Story Sundays. Over the next few Sundays, I'll read and review the Locus nominees for Short Story available online:

‘‘Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight’’, Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld 1/15)
‘‘Madeleine’’, Amal El-Mohtar (Lightspeed 6/15)
‘‘Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers’’, Alyssa Wong (Nightmare 10/15) - 2016 Nebula Award Winner
‘‘Cat Pictures Please’’, Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld 1/15) - 2016 Locus Award Winner.


*snapshot of the books I've read thus far in 2016 (so much good!!!):

Sunday Short: Amal El-Mohtar's The Truth About Owls

Monday, September 14, 2015 0

This week's Sunday Short (coming a day late -- sorry!) is The Truth About Owls by Amal El-Mohtar, available via Strange Horizons.

This coming-of-age story follows Anisa, a teenage girl who lived in Lebanon in a time of war and now lives in Glasgow near an owl center. It is light in terms of fantasy or sci-fi, but focuses more on Welsh folk stories and the emotional experiences of an immigrant girl. She witnesses an owl killing the family's rooster in her youth and feels the first stirrings of power / her impact on the world around her.

The story didn't pull me in as much as other short stories recently have -- I don't have too much familiarity with Welsh folktales and the story of Mabinogion / Blodeuwedd wasn't really fleshed out enough for me to appreciate it's implications in this story. There were some beautiful moments, and I did appreciate the background (another coming of age story affected by war, similar to Bodard's Breath of War featured last week).

 Favorite quote:
"You're well into this, you are."

"It's just—" Anisa bites her lip, looking at Blodeuwedd, raising her slightly to shift the weight on her forearm, watching her spread her magnificent wings, then settle, "—sometimes—I feel like I'm just a collection of bits of things that someone brought together at random and called girl, and then Anisa, and then—" she shrugs. "Whatever."

Izzy is quiet for a moment. Then she says, thoughtfully, "You know, there's another word for that."

"For what?"

"What you just described—an aggregation of disparate things. An anthology. That's what The Mabinogion is, after all."

Anisa is unconvinced. "Blodeuwedd's just one part of someone else's story, she's not an anthology herself."

Izzy smiles, gently, in a way that always makes Anisa feel she's thinking of someone or something else, but allowing Anisa a window's worth of view into her world. "You can look at it that way. But there's another word for anthology, one we don't really use any more: florilegium. Do you know what it means?"

Anisa shakes her head, and blinks, startled, as Blodeuwedd does a side-wise walk up her arm to lean, gently, against her shoulder. Izzy smiles, a little more brightly, more for her, and says: "A gathering of flowers."

 Next week's story will be When it Ends, He Catches Her by Eugie Foster available via Daily Science Fiction.

Sunday Short: Aliette de Bodard's The Breath of War

Sunday, September 6, 2015 0

This week's Sunday Short is Aliette de Bodard's The Breath of War, published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

Cover art for BCS's Issue #142 - Sojourn by Ferdinand Dumago Ladera.

The Breath of War is set in a world where women carve breath-siblings (or stonemen) out of stone at their accession to adulthood that are needed to breathe the very first breathe of life into a baby at birth. The protagonist we follow is Rechan, who is very pregnant and on a journey into mountains to find her breath-siblings. It is rare for a woman to live apart from her carved stoneman/stonewoman, mainly because any child born without the breath-sibling present would be stillborn.

In her youth, Rechan went into the mountains and carved a mysterious breath-sibling named Sang, that didn't return with her to civilization post-carving. The reader is given small details throughout the story of Rechan at her time of carving into adulthood -- a teenage girl denied life abroad because of local war, who uses that frustration to create something altogether an antithesis of what you'd thing a breath-sibling (and bringer of life to a small, helpless newborn) would be. Years later, Rechan wants to become a mother and avoids seeking out her stoneman until the last possible moment, because confronting Sang means confronting the decisions she made and the emotions she felt in her youth

I found Bodard's worldbuilding fascinating, if a little foreign / difficult to get into at first, and I think she weaves a tale both interesting and worthy of telling. An adult is protected by the weapon she creates in her angry youth; a reminder that our lives are something more (or that they should at least be) than what we might experience or feel in our youth. And that war / violence has far reaching consequences that can be easy to dismiss in stories we read for entertainment. Maybe I am the target audience for a story like this (being in my *cough* 30s and also not exactly where I thought I'd be or want in my teenage years), but I found it unique and most timely after some of the images this week of Syria refugees.

Favorite quote:

Sang was silent, for a while. I will come back, he said.

He wouldn’t. Rechan knew this with absolute certainty—Sang was the desire to escape, the burning need for flight that she’d felt during her adolescence. Once he found space, he would be in the home he’d always been meant for; and who could blame him for not looking back? “Of course,” she lied—smoothly, easily. “You can always come back.”
 Interested in hearing another opinion on this story and the others I will cover in the Sunday Shorts this month? Check out  Alicia at The Cyborg Knight who is doing a read along with me!

Next week's story will be The Truth About Owls by Amal El-Mohtar, which is available via Strange Horizons.

announcing short story september!

Monday, August 31, 2015 2


I have made no secret in the past of my love for the short story format with my regular Sunday Shorts feature, where I highlight one sci-fi / fantasy / horror short story available online. I have also guest posted about my love for the short story at Oh the Books. But now I am going a step further and declaring September the month of the short story* -- Short Story September! 

What does that mean for the blog? My plan for the month is to continue with my weekly Sunday Short feature, with the following schedule for the month and where each story can be found:

September 6: The Breath of War by Aliette de Bodard available via Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

September 13: The Truth About Owls by Amal El-Mohtar available via Strange Horizons.
   
September 20: When it Ends, He Catches Her by Eugie Foster available via Daily Science Fiction

September 27: A Kiss With Teeth by Max Gladstone available via Tor.

An astute reader might notice that these stories (along with Ursula Vernon's Jackalope Wives, featured this past weekend on the blog) can be found on the short list that io9 put together on what the Hugo ballot for the short story category could have looked like this year without Puppygate. These are the stories that other WorldCon members thought were the best of 2014, and I think they are going to be fun to explore here!

Additionally, I will have weekly posts devoted to some of my favorite venues for short stories online, plus a review of a recent short story anthology or two. And for the first time, I am also hoping to feature other bloggers that read / review short stories, plus maybe link up with a few bloggers who want to read some short fiction for the first time.

Which brings me to the big invitation -- are you interested in adventuring into the world of the short story with me?  If so, sign up via the linky below, and I will make sure to follow along with your short story adventure and include it in a weekly highlights post this month! You can read / review your favorite short stories, do a read along of the stories I will feature each Sunday, or do something else promoting short stories -- it is really your choice!


If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me at exploringworldsfiction@gmail.com or comment below!

*While doing my research putting together this post, I did find out that May has previously been declaring as short story month (to follow April's National Poetry Month), but I am pretty certain that short stories are cool enough to have an extra more alliterative month devoted to them... right? :)
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