“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.
“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.
“Where It Lives,” by Nathaniel Lee
I love the kind of fiction that captures a specific, bizarre, yet familiar and sympathetic mental state.
This is a horror story—that final image of Tilly’s mom really makes it—but it’s the kind of horror story that has a semi-happy ending. I like that.
Following up on this, a recent installment of Homestuck included something that can only be done in speculative fiction, and I want to savor it by analysis:
Dave grew up with an abusive guardian who died before Dave got the chance to come to terms with his abuse. In this scene, he finds himself face to face with Dirk, an alternate-reality version of his abuser. While Dirk has technically never done anything to Dave, he’s already acquired the behavior patterns that could lead him in the same direction.
For the first time, Dave gets to vent some of his justified anger. Dirk not only looks and feels like Dave’s guardian, he also intuitively understands his other self’s cruelty and feels partly responsible. And because he’s not that other self, Dave can eventually forgive him, learn to trust him, and even ask him for the comfort and affection he never got as a kid.
If Dave had tried to reconcile with his actual abuser to this extent, he would have likely have gotten burned again. But with Dirk, he has a chance of starting over on his own terms. They’re even the same age this time. It’s an amazing scene of catharsis and the best kind of wish fulfillment.
How would a realistic narrative do this? I suppose Dirk’s role could be filled by a twin sibling or a son. Or Dave’s guardian could suffer a traumatic brain injury that makes him effectively a new person. Or the cathartic confrontation could occur in a dream sequence or a hallucination or a story within the story. But these are only approximations of the thing we’re trying to do, a thing that Homestuck offers in its purest form.
Compare the quasi-redemption at the end of “Bullet in the Brain,” which is made possible only by messing with chronology.