It’s time to highlight another handful of my favorite short fiction stories, this time from those that were published in August 2017! This time, I found all the stories very deeply emotionally affecting, and each also held a sense of hope and peace for the future. This is the first time I’ve featured Elaine Cuyegkeng and Kate Marshall, but Linda Nagata has shown up on my blog before for both short fiction and long. I’m still planning on continuing her military SF series at some point. Anyway, on to the stories, and I have provided links to where they are available to read online!
These Constellations will be Yours by Elaine Cuyegkeng (Short Story, Strange Horizons): In a space-faring empire, young precognitive girls from a particular culture are taken, indoctrinated, and physically patched into starships. The main character has already been made into a starship, and she watches the possible futures of another girl who was ransomed from the same fate by familial wealth. This is a story of the suffering caused by colonialism, racism and the commodification of people. At the same time, as we see the vision and revolutionary tendencies of the unmade girl, it carries a strong sense of hope that injustice will not always go unchallenged. As the story says, “The problem is that people are reasonable. They are very reasonable, until they cannot be reasonable anymore.”
Red Bark and Ambergris by Kate Marshall (Short Story, Beneath Ceaseless Skies): In this fantasy world, people who have the ability to ‘sense’ are taken from their homes and imprisoned on a dreary island to work out their lives in service to a cruel queen. Sarai dreams of becoming a poison-tamer, the only path that may eventually grant her access to the queen and court. However, her natural talent is in constructing beautiful scents to evoke memory and emotion, not taming poisons. She may never be allowed to return home, but she must decide what meaning she will make of her life. It was a very emotional story, focused on her internal struggle as represented by the competing talents. Her eventual conclusion was bittersweet, but it felt fitting.
The Martian Obelisk by Linda Nagata (Short Story, Tor.com): The world’s slow collapse is reaching its end, and it looks like the human race will not survive. Susannah has already lost everything, and she has dedicated the remainder of her life to remotely building an obelisk on Mars. Humanity may pass away, but the obelisk will remain as a memorial. However, the world hasn’t actually ended quite yet, and events may upset her final plans. This story is kind of a tearjerker, but it is also about the importance of not giving in to despair. Susannah is a very emotionally engaging character, and following her changing perspective through the story left me feeling more hopeful for the future.