Sunday Short: LaShawn M. Wanak's 21 Steps to Enlightenment (Minus One)

Sunday, September 7, 2014
This week's short is Wanak's 21 Steps to Enlightenment (Minus One), published in Strange Horizons.
2014, Cedric Fiumara (with background texture by,
"21 Steps to Enlightenment (Minus One)"

This story caught me on a bad day and did something that great stories do -- it made me forget the moment I was and transport me to another one. 21 Steps is told from the perspective of a young black girl who lives in a world where spiral staircases just appear. We are told: '..spiral staircases give people ideas for their next novel, their next painting. Money for the rent. Boyfriends. Cheetos. A cure for cancer. A warm place to spend the night. Knitting projects, rave parties, manicures, a PhD in astrophysics, that thing you've always wanted as a kid, Heaven, Hell, and everything in between.'

The narrator's mother refuses to climb a staircase, and the narrator comes to the important realization of why. Overall, I think the story shares a lot of similarities to Chu's Hugo winning short story The Water That Falls on You From Nowhere (my review here). Both deal with family dynamics in eloquent and meaningful ways, and both have a fantastical element that the authors use to create an extra emotional depth to the story.

Rating 4.5/5

Favorite line: I wondered if I would ever see her that happy. Then I realized I wasn't responsible for her happiness, anymore than she was responsible for mine.

Next week, I'll highlight the short Jennifer Pelland's Captive Girl, which was originally published in Helix back in 2006 (and nominated for a Nebula in 2007), but is available online for free via Transcriptase.

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