For something stronger, and in honor of my recent adventures at WisCon, the shots this week are all taken from the special menu from the Bar. Go ahead and check out the image of the full Bar menu (speculative booze puns!) in my write up on Wiscon.
Otherwise, prepare your palate for some delicious stories. Cheers!
Tasting Flight - May 2015
"Zapped" by Sherwood Smith (Tor.com)
|Art by Junyi Wu|
"By Degrees and Dilatory Time" by S.L. Huang (Strange Horizons)
|Art by Milan Jaram|
"A Sister's Weight in Stone" by JY Yang (Apex #72)
|Art by Beth Spencer|
"Let Down, Set Free" by Nino Cipri (Crossed Genres #29)
With a seedpod the size of an oak tree and a wild possibility to it, "Let Down, Set Free" by Nino Cipri is a rye ale, with hints of southern whiskey and the feeling of flying. In the story a recently divorced woman finds said giant seedpod in a field. According to the government such things are supposed to be burned, but she can't bring herself to do it. It was merely lost, like her, tethered when it got caught on a fence. She sees in it her own move from the North down to Kentucky and then her own lack of direction. Being mired in a fence is not the same as putting down roots, and against what might be considered better judgment the woman decides that her and the seed are going to move on together. Told as a letter to her ex-husband, the story drifts beautifully on its way, the main character a bit numb following her husband running off with another woman and being stranded in a state she followed him to. But it's also about lifting, about taking the plunge and moving on after loss, after disappointment and abandonment. About seeking that better place, and not letting yourself get stuck somewhere that's not good for you. A moving story, with enough flavor to make a good rye, hints of smoke and earth and grain and hope.
"The Garden Beyond Her Infinite Skies" by Matthew Kressel (Clarkesworld #104)
|Art by Julie Dillon|
"Restore the Heart into Love" by John Chu (Uncanny #4)
|Art by Tran Nguyen|
"Mirror Skinned" by Kelly Sandoval (Flash Fiction Online)
|Art by Dario Bijelac|
"This Side of Time" by Sarah Grey (Fantastic Stories of the Imagination)
This story shows a young woman using a time machine that can show possible futures to search for her perfect match, and is a The Female Manhattan, a mic of brandy, sweet vermouth, bitters, and a twist of orange. The story is told to one of those potential matches, Husband Seven-Sixty-Five, by a sort of omniscient narrator, but it's really about the values that we teach, the way we shape the world with our beliefs. The story of this woman and this man is a hard one, a difficult one, fraught with ups and downs and ultimately rather tragic. And yet it is the kind of story that happens because people can't see the future. They do the best with what they have and do the best they can but everyone is human. But here such learning opportunities can merely be sidestepped. Instead of the hardships, this woman can pick the path she wants. It's both freeing and a bit sad, because while it does let her avoid the unforeseen abuse she might have suffered, the life that was so full of promise but fell short, it also avoid learning from those experiences. And it's how we teach children to be by stressing utility and capital and all the things that make them value people not as individuals but as things. As roles and potential benefits. It's not a happy story but it works, hitting hard and then leaving the floor littered with bodies of passed over husbands.
"Application for the Delegation of First Contact: Questionnaire, Part B" by Kathrin Köhler (Book Smugglers)
At its core this story is about empathy and making contact with alien worlds, and so I can think of no more fitting drinks than a Tears of Our Enemies, a mix of Chamomile-infused Rökker, vodka, simple syrup, lemon, and seltzer. It's a provocative story, told as an actual questionnaire prompting the reader to reflect, to think, to examine themselves and think about how different cultures can see the world. Can see the universe. The goal seems to be to foster an understanding that culture is a sort of universe unto itself, that each culture is an alien world and every meeting between culture is a meeting of alien creatures, and yet also a meeting of fellows, a meeting of sentient life that deserves respect. It is an interesting experiment in form and for me it pays off, it works. The plot might not exactly be present but I don't think every story needs a plot. It prods and it brings up a lot of interesting ideas, and it does so in a way that I hadn't seen before. So this is a Tears of Our Enemies, not because we want to see them cry but because when we understand that they do cry we also must understand that we are like them, vulnerable and somewhat alone.
POSTED BY: Charles, avid reader, reviewer, and sometimes writer of speculative fiction. Contributor to Nerds of a Feather since 2014. If you're still in a mood for stories, you can find his latest in this month's Lightspeed Magazine's Queers Destroy Science Fiction.