spindizzy: Konzen and Goku clinging too each other. (The final curtain falling)
Susan ([personal profile] spindizzy) wrote in [community profile] ladybusiness2018-04-06 10:18 pm

Eight Book Minimum: The shortest of all! (06/04/18)

This will be possibly the shortest of all Eight Book Minimums, as all of these are short stories! It's an even split between things were recommended by [twitter.com profile] forestofglory in her favourite short fiction of 2017 post and short stories from Aliette de Bodard's Xuya universe, because I was having a bit of a spring clean of tabs. I had excellent luck with my reading, because most of what I read here was pretty great!


  1. Owl Vs The Neighborhood Watch by Darcie Little Badger [Jump]

  2. The Influence of the Iron Range by Marissa Lingen [Jump]

  3. A Wound Like An Unplowed Field by Max Wynne [Jump]

  4. How to Survive an Epic Journey by Tansy Rayner Roberts [Jump]

  5. Immersion by Aliette de Bodard [Jump]

  6. Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight by Aliette de Bodard [Jump]

  7. A Salvaging of Ghosts by Aliette de Bodard [Jump]

  8. Scattered Along the River of Heaven by Aliette de Bodard [Jump]


1. Owl Vs The Neighborhood Watch by Darcie Little Badger [Top]
Owl Vs The Neighborhood Watch is a story about Nina Soto, a woman whose depressive episodes are marked by the arrival of Owl(-with-a-capital-O). It draws on Apache mythology in really cool ways, and I think it depicts her manic-depression really well! (I especially like the way that it describes the way her brain feels, and the sheer number of disasters she can think of and her plans to mitigate as many of them as she can.)

My favourite part of this story is Nina trying to create a community to help her neighbours – she only knows them by their outside behaviour – not even their first names, for some of them, even though she's lived there for years – she but her reaching out to them, and to her family, makes me really happy. It's a good and satisfying story, and I really enjoyed it! Definitely recommended.

(Caution warnings: depression, discussions of suicide attempts, racism from doctors)

2. The Influence of the Iron Range by Marissa Lingen [Top]
The Influence of the Iron Range is an alternate history story that revolves around US elections in 1888, where a woman on a political campaign protects her candidate from undue influence from fae. No, really. I'm... Lukewarm about this story at best? I like that the protagonist is a proud, competent woman with strong opinions about both democracy and attacks upon it – hello, that is the majority of my social group, of course I'm going to warm to her – and I like that it uses folklore to show how she mitigates potential magical influence. I just... I don't think the last half holds together well? Nothing in what came first half sets up what happened towards the end, so I'm mostly meh about it.

3. A Wound Like An Unplowed Field by Max Wynne [Top]
My main response to this one is "Huh." A soldier with an arrow embedded in his leg asks a witch if she can help – which she can, if he waits a while. It's almost got the structure of a fairy tale, which I like, and the way the magic is described is neat – it involves a lot of plants and muttering and time, and it's interesting to see slow magic for a change. A Wound Like An Unplowed Field is interesting, I just don't have a lot to say about it.

4. How to Survive an Epic Journey by Tansy Rayner Roberts [Top]
How to Survive an Epic Journey is Tansy Rayner Robert's take on the story of Jason and the Argonauts – from the perspective of Atalanta. THIS IS MY JAM. It does all of the things that I want from mythological retellings – it centres female characters and their stories, it takes on the conflicting stories that have survived to the modern age, and unreliable narrators, and the fact that a lot of the heroes of Greek mythology are awful people. But also I love Medea in this – she is undoubtedly monstrous, but she gets to be human too, just as male epic heroes do.

It's such a good story. The tone, the structure, the narrative – it all works together to be exactly what I wanted, and I love it a lot. ... Now I need to find more stories like this.

5. Immersion by Aliette de Bodard [Top]
Wow, this story. It's so clever and I love it – the use of second person to distance the reader from Agnes' point of view, as she is distanced from herself and her own culture, the contrast between her stilted relationship with her husband and Quy's relationship with her family, the idea of immersers (technology that translates and feeds you information about things that you're looking at, while projecting an avatar for you) and the way it affects people and culture and how things are perceived, Tam's work... The way it comes together at the end is excellent. I honestly had to just sit and think about this story after I finished it, because of the points it makes about culture – about people who think it can be broken down and parcelled out in pieces and that makes it just as good as the real thing, who expect and pressure others to fit to their culture rather than exchange or fitting in – and fitting this story into everything else I've read about white privilege and cultural appropriation vs cultural exchange... Wow. It's great.

6. Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight by Aliette de Bodard [Top]
I know that I shouldn't have been surprised that Three Cups of Grief, By Starlight, is sad considering it's in the name, and yet. The story follows three mourners after the death of Professor Duy Uyen, the Professor's two children, and one of her students who has to carry on her work. The way the narrative breathes grief is so good, from Quang Tu's resentment and occasional stumbles in his narrative voice, through Tuyet Hoa's extremely controlled narration as she wrangles a gift that is as much a curse as an honour (and her conclusion about her work and the Professor after death is a weird combination of satisfying and awful, because there is only so much she can change), to The Tiger in the Banyan, Professor Duy Uyen's ship-AI daughter grieving in her own inhuman way. The way that grief and work and works bind the three sections is good, and I enjoy so much how different everyone relationships with Professor Duy Uyen were and are, and how she has such a presence despite dying before the story begins. It's great.

7. A Salvaging of Ghosts by Aliette de Bodard [Top]
A Salvaging of Ghosts is about Thuy, who dives through unreality to scavenge gems (all that's left of corpses compressed in deep space) from spaceship wrecks, as she attempts to retrieve her daughter's remains. This story is somewhat on the weird side, as you'd expect from a story explicitly about diving through layers of unreality, but the grief and the sheer hardness of this life is really well drawn, and the descriptions of what she finds is great. It's not my favourite of the Xuya stories I've read, but I really enjoyed it.

8. Scattered Along the River of Heaven by Aliette de Bodard [Top]
Scattered Along the River of Heaven is two stories entwined; one about a bloody revolution where robots and language are weapons and no one is safe, and one set a generation after the revolution, about a young woman going back to the place she was born out of duty to a relative she didn't know. The way the bots are used in each part of the story is fascinating – Xu Anshi's use and trust of them, and Xu Wen's fear (she honestly seems to find them gross, and the texture of that is really well done) are a great contrast, especially for how natural Xu Anshi finds them and how much they contribute to Xu Wen's culture shock. The different accounts of the history of Felicity Station, and the deliberate construction and rejection that goes into creating its post-revolution culture, is fascinating to me as well, especially for the different reactions each generation of the family has to it. Aliette de Bodard has said that it's about diaspora and memory, and I just want to read lots of people being smart about this story and this universe – it's excellent and I highly recommend it.

Reading Goals


Reading goal: 42/180 (8 new this post) Prose: 21/90 (8 new this post) Nonfiction: 0/12
#getouttamydamnhouse: 13/80 (None gone this post)
#unofficialqueerafbookclub: 11/42 (0 new this post)

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