“Love Like Monkeys,” by Jess Zimmerman
Appeared in Terraform, January 13th, 2017
This story raises a bunch of creepy possibilities and refuses to fully resolve them. Not my cup of tea, although I can see it’s well done.
An interesting review: “What I liked about this story is that it’s a ‘gotcha’ story without a moral. It has the form of one of those irritating stories that the coffeehouse nerd in the brown cardigan writes to try to ‘wake people up.’ […] This story is happy to let it lie.”
“The Wretched and the Beautiful,” by E. Lily Yu
Appeared in Terraform, February 6th, 2017
An elegant story. While I have no doubt about the author’s politics, the story itself makes its point with delicacy, almost ambiguity.
A nice touch: “For this special edition of Terraform, the writer, award-winning E. Lily Yu, artist, Jason Arias, and me, the editor, will be donating our fees to the International Rescue Committee, a group founded at the behest of Albert Einstein, which assists refugees around the world.”
“The Interruption,” by Debbie Urbanski
I like this one. Good evocation of the main character’s rather unhappy life and (subtly, towards the end) the sense of freedom she finds in being lost. Wouldn’t feel out of place in a literary fiction publication.
I like how Terraform embraces stories that, while only science fiction in a loose sense if at all, use technology or science in interesting ways.
“Jonny Appleseed,” by Joshua Whitehead
An interesting look at growing up gay on a reservation. The ending isn’t really the end, of course—the main character is likely to have a lot more problems in his life—but it’s nice: an intimate moment with a boyfriend who accepts him as he is. (I don’t think he ever told Tias about Lucia, but they’re intimate all the same.)
I think this sequence represents the events of the series as Anthy remembers them: her and Utena coming together and yet being constantly separated.
We see her and Utena together, doing that almost-kiss thing before their hands are torn apart, alternately naked and wearing their dueling outfits. Next we see them in their school clothes, Utena beside a phallic tower and a crowd of boys, Anthy beside a yonic gate and a crowd of girls, their everyday lives apparently separated by gender roles. After that, a pair of cage-like gates part and we see the birdcage-shaped greenhouse in which the two of them stand together, united but perhaps trapped. The lyrics take a bittersweet turn. We’re treated to an unabashedly romantic idyll—something the like of which is never shown onscreen in the series itself–presumably taking place some ordinary day when nothing else was going on. It is interrupted by a transition to the duels.
A montage of duelists. Apocalyptic imagery signals the final duel, revolution. As the arena crumbles, Dios wakes—is this a bittersweet fake-out, with Dios as an empty mirage, or is this a symbol of the awakening of Anthy’s true self?* In another ambiguous moment, we see Anthy and Utena, armor-clad, riding magic horses through the upside-down castle—are they fighting their way towards adulthood and freedom, as the lyrics seem to suggest, or are they trapped in Ohtori’s endless carousel of fairy-tale illusion? The two are torn apart again. Utena falls back and ends up alone.
The end of the opening sequence plays with the idea of an ending in which Anthy vanishes from Utena’s life. Instead, the series shows Anthy constantly, quietly vanishing—denying herself, colluding with Akio—until, ultimately, she is able to imagine Utena waiting for her.
*It’s never made explicit, but I read Dios as largely a projection of Anthy’s own strength and nobility, rather than a lost part of Akio. It seems obvious that Anthy magically imprisoned young Dios’s powers inside herself, and I see no reason to think they were ever his to begin with; perhaps she used witchcraft to make all his good deeds possible. Nor do we see anyone but Anthy behind the Rose Gate. There’s one other hint that Dios is Anthy—when Anthy disguises herself as a boy, her hair looks like Dios’s.
“The Testimonie of Alyss Teeg,” by Carys Davies
Pages 25–37 in the magazine, maybe 3000 words?
A fine, cruel story.
The eccentric spelling and capitalization seem to insist on the authenticity of the narrative voice. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing; it made me pay closer attention to the narrator’s diction and syntax, asking myself whether someone could have written this without being what I think of as fully literate, questioning, doubting.
The word “testimony” suggests that Alyss is presenting for our judgment the real truth of what happened. But of course she can’t give us the real truth, any more than she could give it in court; the real truth is hidden in the heart of her sibling, the one she never stops calling “James Elward.”
“Owl Eyes,” by Joyce Carol Oates
Around 17.5 pages, 6501 words
I’m not sure how to feel about the ending of this story. Jerald has discovered a new place in himself, a new capacity for action, but it’s hard to know what his adventure will cost him. I’m also not completely sure I buy the suddenness of his change.
I found myself slightly jarred—irrationally—by the mention of an iPad. Something about the language or the setting feels to me like that of an earlier era. Or it might be that the language sounds so very Joyce Carol Oates (I was reading her work before iPads were around) that I’m automatically taken back in time.