spindizzy: Count D in a cleaning frenzy. (Cleaning)
[personal profile] spindizzy posting in [community profile] ladybusiness
Hello my darlings! I think I mentioned a million years ago that I'd read enough short fiction that I could start separating it out from my other reviews, and lo! Four months and shiny new treatment for my anxiety disorder later: here we are!

  1. Wild Ones by Vanessa Fogg [Jump]

  2. Mrs Peak and the Dragon [Jump]

  3. Riddle by Ogbewe Amadin [Jump]

  4. Have This Wish I Wish Tonight by Katherine Kellig [Jump]

  5. My Pet Tiger by Jessica Dylan Miele [Jump]

  6. Carnival Nine by Caroline M. Yoachim [Jump]

  7. The Martian Obelisk by Linda Nagata [Jump]

  8. Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand by Fran Wilde [Jump]

1. Wild Ones by Vanessa Fogg [Top]
Oh, this one is fascinating. It was a recommendation from [personal profile] bookgazing, because always take Jodie's recs, about a woman in a town where the Wild Hunt rides, where the children are stolen every night to ride in the hunt, and returned to their beds in the morning. Most of them, anyway. The point of view character has a daughter who is riding in the hunt, which brings back all of her memories and questions from her time in it.

This one was really good. It feels almost like the aftermath of a portal fantasy, where the protagonist has returned to normal life from their adventure, but regrets it deeply – she seems level-headed, but she wants that adventure, and the conflict between her desire for the life she's built and the life she remembers having when she was younger is so familiar. The story is full of affection – between the protagonist and her husband, between the protagonist and her daughter – especially in the way that she dedicates so much time to trying to root her daughter in the life they have, in an attempt to also root herself.

It's kinda about growing, isn't it? Growing out of the wildness – because none of the adults talk about the Wild Hunt directly, not even to each other – and growing up and away from your family, and choosing what you grow into regardless of the expectations on you. It's such a good story and I can't recommend it enough.

2. Mrs Peak and the Dragon by Andrew Willett [Top]
Mrs Peak and the Dragon is very short and unsurprising (I feel like I have read this before as fanfic, although I couldn't tell you for which fandom), but it has charm? It's a piece of flash fiction about a woman who owns a sweet shop, and the baby dragon that gets in there somehow. I like the idea of baby dragons as a pest creature – like pigeons or stray cats, except with more ability to breathe fire and more willingness to sneak into your house for shinies – and the reveal is done well, but isn't exactly surprising. It's fine for a quick read.

3. Riddle by Ogbewe Amadin [Top]
This is a story about a little girl and a witch. The witch is her aunt, and her aunt must be evil because the little girl's mother says all witches are evil, but how could her aunt be evil? What follows is a very short story about belief in and perception of others, through the eyes of a small child.

[personal profile] bookgazing talked about this one before, and was very smart about it! I don't really have anything to add; the story's voice works well for what it's doing, which is using the child-narrator to bring ambiguity to the people around her. There is so much that she doesn't understand and can't pick up on, which means that the narrative doesn't actually come down on whether the aunt is a good witch or a bad witch, although the narrator does, and that's a cool trick that I can appreciate! It was a fine story, I just also recommend Jodie's analysis of it and its dissection of circular logic.

4. Have This Wish I Wish Tonight by Katherine Kendig [Top]
Have This Wish I Wish Tonight is a piece of flash fiction about the lover of Orion (yes, the constellation), who accidentally hurts Orion out of embarrassment over their own emotions. It's a nice piece, with lovely imagery and such a good depiction of feeling not enough – that no matter how precious a moment might be to you, it won't be to someone else – and the way that it can hurt others. I liked it a lot, and it desperately made me hope for them both.

5. My Pet Tiger by Jessica Dylan Miele [Top]
This one didn't thrill me. My Pet Tiger is a letter from a woman named Destiny to her landlord, explaining her current house pet. It touches on class and patriarchal expectations (the landlord prefers handwritten letters, who expects handwritten letters for a business matter?), and the treatment of women, especially women who enjoy existing in public, or drinking, or wearing revealing clothing. The voice is good, it sounds like women I've met, but also... The story didn't quite catch for me. Possibly it's just because the premise of this being a letter to a stranger makes me twitch, possibly it's that the story isn't subtle in what its trying to say, but I didn't enjoy it very much.

[Caution warnings: abuse, sexual assault, mentions of rape]

6. Carnival Nine by Caroline M. Yoachim [Top]
This is one of those stories where I'm pretty sure that I could see what it was doing, but it still left me cold. Carnival Nine follows the life of Zee, a member of a society where everyone has a wind-up key that can only be wound-up by a mysterious Maker who gives them all a different and arbitrary amount of turns of the key every day.

What it reads as to me is an allegorical narrative about being a carer for someone with a disability, sort of the fantasy version of the Spoon Theory narrative, and I think what I'm supposed to take away from it is a story about using the time that you have wisely and on the people that you love, and that life becomes easier if you help others and get others to help you in return. But also... A narrative where a female character is rewarded for giving up her dreams to focus on her caretaker role, and narratively punished for taking time for herself (I appreciate that the narrative points out that the problem is that she ran away instead of making plans with her family, but the punishment is still there), while the actual disabled character barely gets a voice? No. Never. I have been a carer, and that narrative, especially the punishment aspect, is poison. It's been pointed out that her mother somewhat subverts this narrative by explicitly opting out of a caretaking role, but I don't think it's enough, just like I don't think that "well it does happen in real life" negates the way this story uses her father.

The visuals are very neat, and the world building of people choosing their own bodies when they reach adulthood (perhaps even choosing spider legs or crab arms!) is very cool, but it doesn't change how much this story repelled me.

[I read the version of this story included in the Hugo packet 2018, but it can also be found here.]

7. The Martian Obelisk by Linda Nagata [Top]
The Martian Obelisk opens with a catalogue of miseries; a thousand different tiny cataclysms and plagues and acts of hubris that have made the world worse and worse, until the only conclusion can be that the world's ending. In this dying world, an architect called Susannah is being paid to build an obelisk on Mars, as a monument to the existence of humanity, and of course her wealthy sponsor... Right up until someone on Mars, where there isn't supposed to be a single living soul, starts driving up to her monument.

This one left me cold, but I can appreciate the central drama of an eighty-year-old and an eighty-five year old trying to resolve a desperate situation despite a hefty time delay, and the fact that the story arc tends towards hope. It's a sort of backhanded, dismal hope, but considering how miserable the start of the story was I'll take what I can get. I'd say that this is a story that isn't for me, even though I can see what it was aiming for, but it's... Not bad, I guess? If you dislike rich men using their money and power on pointless vanity projects instead of actually saving the world or paying their taxes this could be cathartic, as it forces the protagonists to choose between hubris and something that actually matters.

[I read the copy included in the Hugo packet, but you can read it online here.]

8. Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand by Fran Wilde [Top]
This story is Weird.

Our very own [personal profile] bookgazing has reviewed Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand, and I'm not sure I have much more to add! It's set in a museum (I think? Jodie's suggested it's a freak show), that documents the lives and torture of the people who live in its remains. All of them clearly labelled, with a tour guide to lead you through. And yes, specifically you – the story's in second person, which is known to be my jam, and make this story simultaneously more unnerving and more personal, as the tour guide specifically directs the reader through exhibits and grotesqueries. The descriptions of the rooms are excellent and atmospheric, woven with subtle threat and anger at what was done to the guide and her friends. (And it definitely relatable anger – "the drawers of Items We’ve Let Touch Us Because Someone Just Like You Said It Would Make Us Well" is as much of a horror as it is familiar.) Plus the emphasis on "your" hands, and the way that the inhabitants of the museum are clear on exactly how much they want to give away to the curiosity of visitors is a really good set up to the ending.

Not precisely my thing, but it's definitely worth a look!

[Caution warnings: medical horror and mistreatment] [I read the copy included in the Hugo packet, but you can read it online here.]

Currently Reading

  • X Omnibus 1 by CLAMP — I know pretty much nothing about X except that it's one of CLAMP's longest-unfinished series, but I am very cautiously intrigued by the family antics against a backdrop of murder and explosions?

  • All My Darling Daughters by Fumi Yoshinaga — I love Fumi Yoshinaga's work, but I feel like the mother in this story is going to be a bit Much for me right now, so I'm taking it slow. I like the daughter so far though!

  • Truthwitch by Susan Dennard — I'm really glad that everyone has warned me that this story isn't as queer as I think it's going to be, because otherwise I'd be seriously getting my hopes up about the female protagonists as they COMMIT CRIME TOGETHER.

Reading Goals

Reading goal: 74/180 (8 new this post) Prose: 46/90 (8 new this post) Short Fiction: 33/46 (8 new this post) Nonfiction: 1/12 (0 new this post)
#getouttamydamnhouse: 20/50 (0 gone this post)
#unofficialqueerafbookclub: 22/50 (0 new this post, although Have This Wish I Wish Tonight might count depending on how you read the All-Concealing I.)
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