I don’t usually read short fiction. In fact, when you come down to it I kind of hate short fiction, on account of the shortness. Hell, you’ve seen me write 5,000-words long reviews. Of course I don’t like things that are small and concise. DON’T JUDGE ME GODDAMN IT.
But anyway. Everyone’s probably heard of Aliette de Bodard, Zen Cho and Rochita Loenen-Ruiz already and they need no introductions, and at this point you’re probably thinking “what the fuck took you so long to read them?” Exactly.
“Scattered Along the River of Heaven” by Aliette de Bodard is about language loss, a theft of culture, and of course colonialism. It’s poignant and touching, and absolutely lovely.
“Good,” Zhiying said. She gestured; and the men dragged the next victim—a Mheng girl, dressed in the clothes of an indentured servant.
This—this was what the bots had wanted her to see. Anshi looked to the prisoners huddled against the wall: there was one San-Tay left, an elderly man who gazed back at her, steadily and without fear. The rest—all the rest—were Mheng, dressed in San-Tay clothes, their skin pale and washed-out in the flickering lights—stained with what looked like rice flour from one of the burst bags on the floor. Mheng. Their own people.
“Elder sister,” Anshi said, horrified.
Zhiying’s face was dark with anger. “You delude yourself. They’re not Mheng anymore.”
Also check out her “Immersion,” which is about the thing that I love to rant about re: expats and tourists, captured in beautiful prose and incisive insights. The rest of her bibliography can be found here.
“Alternate Girl’s Expatriate Life” by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz is just excellent. It’s about a robot. But it’s more than that.
Happy Birthday, Alternate Girl! Today is a milestone for all of us. You have successfully completed one hundred weeks of expatriate life. In recognition of your hard work, a reward has been issued to you at the designated station. Report in as soon as you can and don’t forget to register at our renewed website. Greetings from Memomach@metaltown.com
Zen Cho’s “The House of Aunts” is long and about a teenage vampire, and also it’s awesome.
“We don’t eat women,” said Ah Lee. “And we don’t eat people we know. That’s all. I don’t pick and choose, depending if I like your face or I don’t like your face so much.”
“Not women?” said Ridzual. “I didn’t realise vampires did affirmative action.”
“It’s already suffering enough to be a woman,” Ah Lee recited. “Don’t need people to eat you some more.”
This was Ah Chor’s line, but the aunts were unanimous on this. Hadn’t Ah Ma told Ah Lee how she had cried whenever she gave birth to a daughter, because she knew what sorrow lay in her future?
“After all there’s enough men around,” added Ah Lee.
Ridzual grinned, but he looked a little sick.
For obvious reasons, I approve. The rest of her bibliography can be found on her site. “Prudence and the Dragon” is sweet and cute and funny, and its companion story “The Perseverance of Angela’s Past Life” is exactly the kind of thing that I like.
“I’m Facebooking my thaumaturge,” she said.
“Why?” said Prudence.
Angela hesitated. But ten years was a long time to pretend something wasn’t there.
“She’s super my type,” said Angela. “Got girlfriend already, but girlfriend doesn’t mean married, right?”
The line crackled. Angela’s chest seized up.
Prudence said, horrified, “Angela! That’s so bad! Don’t go stealing people’s woman!”
“Joking only lah,” said Angela.
“If you want, I can introduce people to you,” said Prudence. “Girl or boy also can. You specify. But don’t go and chase other people’s girlfriend. Hmph. After you stay in Japan you become so immoral.”
Awwwwww yeah. Zen Cho’s capable of both the hilarious, the charming, and the heartbreaking, sometimes all in one story at once. It’s not without reason that her “The Terracotta Bride” was easily my favorite out of Steam-Powered II.