Returning to the QDSF issue of LIGHTSPEED to tackle five reprint stories. (i looked at the original printings here.) We have three shorts and two longer stories from the 80s, and once again, an asterisk * indicates extra enjoyment.
RJ Edwards, “Black Holes”
An interesting and wistful story that crosscuts a relationship between a transmasc person and a guy in Western Massachusetts with a het encounter between two scientists working at the Hadron Collider. i liked the sense of place rendered in the former storyline. The narration links every day happenings with the fate of the universe, and the possibility of an eternal return or all outcomes being realized in parallel universes even when the timing isnt right in the here and now — optimistic!
* AMJ Huston, “Red Run”
A clandestine operation done in a hotel room rather than a hospital, in which an old woman’s memories are downloaded into the mind of a 27-year old woman, who then ceases to exist. It’s also the latter woman’s 2 year anniversary with her partner Natalie. Would the older woman not suffer from depression after being transferred into the younger woman’s, Hinahon’s, body, suggesting that depression is purely a problem with memories? Other than this question i liked how Hinahon’s experiences of a sadness with no explanation was portrayed. It made me think about all the wasted years while you’re still young when you have this kind of disease; so sad.
Raven Kaldera, “CyberFruit Swamp”
A day-in-the-sex-life story of a trans masculine told in a breathless first person narration. After an engaging opening there’s a huge chunk of exposition that i actually enjoyed the most, since it was a futuristic take on the handkerchief code and other historical details of queer culture (this story was published in the mid 90s and the grunge sensibility shows). There’s also a prosthetic cock that comes Vodka. The story action underwhelmed me but the erotica was great.
* Rand B. Lee, “The Sound of His Wings”
In the distant future is a refugee camp of mutants and “simps” in the aftermath of a civil war. The action traces 12 hours of “the very last morning,” while filling in details of plague like disease, the rise of people with psychic abilities, government control, rebellion. The writing is tight, the dialog is great, the narrative is suspenseful and there are explorations of race, colonialism, and mysticism. The camp that serves as the setting is not privy to either side of the mass conflict between the State and unlicensed psychics, but are the insurrectionary rebels so bad?
Geoff Ryman, “O Happy Day!”
A grimdark cautionary tale against “feminazism” following a handful of gay men who work at what’s called the Station, stripping and disposing of bodies, black and brown men, by the train load. One inmate named Lou is a kind of kapo figure. This was a very unpleasant and tasteless story; i dont get high on “what if the colonial/totalitarian logic went the other way” concepts because i feel a false equivalency of violence is drawn. Still, not nearly as big an offender as Arthur C. Clarke and his “Black supremacist” South Africa, which was so odious that ive been put off reading anything else by him. Comparing anything about women’s liberation with the most patriarchal fascist state that existed is just…no; and the whole “women are just as capable of violence as men are, look how non-essentialist I am!” notion the story uses is an alibi. Isn’t the question of which violence does society accept, even encourage, more interesting than Is man truly the aggressor? The fact that “feminazi” is a stale cliche today is the least of the problems. As usual, these kind of hyperbolic reactions to the event of women starting to speak out reveal a lot more about the cis men who write these stories than any insight they have on gender. A violent feminist revolution that remained white supremacist and capitalist would be awful, absolutely, but things like the conflation of trans women with “gays” despite taking a stand against TERFs, and the general “what about the cis menz” vibe of this holocaust-like scenario rubbed me the wrong way. Definitely hasn’t aged well since 1985. The dedication “For America” at the end made me laugh.
Welp, all in all it was a strong batch of short fiction, particularly with setting and dialog. It was also interesting to see the two long stories from the 80s engage with Christian motifs. My biggest complaint is with all the stock gestures: legs tremble while walking, faces turn scarlet, a fork is twisted nervously. They feel more like shortcuts or items to convey a generic emotion, rather than observations that can illuminate personality. i almost think the dialog scenes in which they happen would play better without them, although in some of the stories these stock bits are the only points of detail we get. Expect short SF of a higher tier in the future!