Tasting Flight: March 2015
"Documentary" by Vajra Chandrasekera (Lightspeed #58)
|Art by Wylie Beckert
"The Scavenger's Nursery" by Maria Dahvana Headley (Shimmer #24)
|Art by Sandro Castelli
"The Shape of My Name" by Nino Cipri (Tor)
|Art by Richie Pope
"Story, Story: A tale of mothers and daughters" by Chikodili Emelumadu (Omenana #2)
A cycle of tragedy passed from mother to daughter evolves in "Story, Story: a tale of mothers and daughters" hits like an ale aged in Pinot Noir barrels, that mixing of two different worlds, that trying to get the ale to conform to the flavors of the wine. The story is a generational tragedy, a women who is defined and named for her function trapped by the expectations of her family and society. Successful, smart, and proud, she excels in business but this only makes her siblings jealous and the rest of her family anxious for her to get married, to have children. So she finds a husband, but can't have a child, so her life falls apart. People judge her, people treat her poorly, and then she seems to create a child by accident, and vows to not repeat the mistakes her parents made with her. Only she makes mistakes just as bad, still trying to control her child, still treating her as an extension of her will, more like property than a person. So when her daughter rebels, as she rebelled and, in some ways, as most children are destined to rebel against their parents, tragedy unfolds, drawing to a close the heartache and loss that started because people were too concerned with their own wants for their child to see what their child actually wanted. It's a sad story but with a clear moral, and like a parable it sets up the consequences of ignoring your child's identity and trying to get them to conform to some external standard. It hits hard, and like aged ale there's definitely something to be learned from carefully unpacking the story and its messages.
"Quiet Hour" by Peni Griffin (Crossed Genres #27)
For someone who doesn't normally gravitate toward time travel, two made it into this month's Round. And "Quiet Hour," a story about a woman dealing with the death of her mother and finding out a few strange secrets along the way, is a Long Island Iced Tea, something to sip on a hot day among friends. The story follows Delia as she is interrupted from her own Quiet Hour because her mother has suffered a heart attack and needs help. It opens up a mystery even as Delia races to help her mother, who survives only long enough to tell Delia to be in the kitchen of her boarding house next Quiet Hour. It's a strange request made stranger by the fact that no one can figure out who called Delia or the ambulance. It's something Delia finds out when she follows her mother's instructions and is transported through time to the same house, but with a group of women in it. A group scattered through the decades and centuries but linked by the house, by the kitchen. It's a great concept and it gives Delia and the reader a perspective on time that is not exactly linear or confined. That though Delia's mother is gone, this group that she was a part of goes on, and that through that group so many divides, of race and sexuality and wealth, are bridged and something wonderful happens. It's a lovely story of a great many elements coming together to work as a fantastic whole, which is to say a pretty darn good Long Island Iced Tea.
"The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild" by Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld #102)
|Art by Peter Mohrbacher
"Small Wishes" by Carol Otte (Flash Fiction Online)
A man goes in search of dragons that begin answering wishes in this story which tastes like a Purple Dragon, a mix of bourbon whiskey, raspberry liqueur, ginger ale, and sour. There's a magical feel to it, blended well with the mundane world of contemporary Earth. The dragons arrive and start granting simple wishes, and one man who has suffered a debilitating injury goes to see if they can make him better. Only once he confronts them, once he sees them he knows that they are as bound and restricted as he is. They do not choose to grant wishes. Like genies they are slaves. And so instead of asking for his own freedom from the pain and loss his injury has brought he wishes the dragons free. It's a nice message, not too overdone, and makes a rather interesting point when drawing parallels between it and other, larger issues. The idea that one cannot really be free if by that freedom you enslave others. That being selfish, even when many would find it justified, is not justified if it comes at the expense of others. It's an interesting story and, like the drink, provides a deep and layered experience for something so small.
"Red String" by Cassandra Khaw (Fantastic Stories of the Imagination)
A ghost story with a twist, "Red String" is a Back on Track, a mix of blueberry juice and vodka with a banana liqueur. The vodka and juice turn a bright red and the banana liqueur floats on top a spectral green. Like the drink, the story is both sweet and a biting, with a mortician trying to court the recent widow of a man he had prepared. Things aren't quite what they seem as the widow refuses to move on from her husband's death, keeping her in her mind, not moving on with her own life. And while the mortician at first seems a bit cold for pressing her, the story's twist is that he's only trying to help the dead man who is kept from passing on, kept from the true afterlife, by his former wife holding on so tightly to him. They are connected by the red string, which is supposed to bind lovers, only here it has been turned into something that keeps him in a sort of limbo. Most of the time stories focus on how letting go is good for the survivors, and this one hints at that as well, but also brings up the interesting idea of what rights the dead, the lost, might have, and how they might want to be forgotten. It's an idea that pairs well with "Documentary" above, though this story is much more humorous, even if that humor is enriched by some serious complications.
"Long Shadow" by Rose Lemberg (Strange Horizons)
I'm breaking all my rules with this one, which is an epic poem and not truly a flash fiction, but I liked enough that I'm making an exception. Just try to stop me! And this one, about a goddess frustrated that all her work has not healed the world of all its wounds, is an Espresso Grande, a mix of orange liqueur and espresso. It makes for a strange drinking experiences, bitter with a hint of sweetness and enough of an espresso punch to really wake a person up. The poem follows a goddess upset that all her work seems for not, that for all her compassion and righteousness there is still war in the world, that there is still pain and ugliness. That she can't seem to fix it, and by not fixing it completely she wonders if it's worth it at all to try. She travels far, and in each place is told that she cannot do what she wants most, to escape the cycle of suffering. But also, that fixing it really isn't the point. That her aid and service are not lesser for not fixing the world. That she does something, and that she should continue to do something because she helps people, and even if she doesn't help everyone, it's worth it to try. It's a powerful message for people who come from places of privilege and don't like that they can't solve everything. That it acknowledges that it doesn't excuse those with power from trying to help, from using what they have to try and lessen the suffering of others. Even if, in the end, it doesn't seem to do much. Because it's not about the goddess in the end and her power or her ability or accomplishment. It's about the people who need a way out of suffering. It's a fine work of long poetry.
POSTED BY: Charles, avid reader, reviewer, and apparent destroyer of science fiction. Contributor to Nerds of a Feather since 2014.