I said I was going to resurrect this feature, and I will keep my word. Thus, the first Mini Rainbows short fiction review round-up of 2017! (And hopefully the first of many.)
Note: The reviews below may contain spoilery details!
Today I’m going to talk about a small but varied handful of short fiction. There’s a bit of flash fiction, and even my first ever review of a work of fan fiction as well as a few short stories from Uncanny Magazine that (as usual) I fell hard in love with. Let’s start with those!
The Green Knight’s Wife by Kat Howard
I love a good twist on an old trope or well-known myth or folk tale, and the story of the Green Knight is probably one of the most well-known. Kat Howard turns it on its head by giving us an imagining of the same story from the perspective of the Green Knight’s wife. From that point of view, as you might imagine, the story is very different indeed. It also serves as an opportunity to explore the deeper, darker implications of a bargain such as the one struck in the original story. It’s like the ‘rules’ of surviving a horror movie: never make a deal with an immortal magical being. You’ll never win in the end. But this is about the knight’s wife, not the knight. It’s about the downsides of the deal she once made, ie. her marriage. It’s made abundantly clear that it isn’t a happy marriage for her, but by the end of the story the real twist is served up, if you’ll pardon the pun, swiftly and sharply…
I’m also a sucker for tales of justifiable vengeance and women claiming their agency, so I loved reading this one.
Goddess, Worm by Cassandra Khaw
Before reading this short story, I was entirely new to Cassandra’s work, and if “Goddess, Worm” is any indication of how good she is, I want more.
Another myth is explored from a feminine perspective here, while its underlying message is one of courage – and justifiable rage – in response to abuse. There’s a sense of injustice, of futile rage in the face of oppressive entitlement, and finally of deeply satisfying if bitter action taken as this story unfolds that really hit home for me. The sense of empathy, of horror at the narrator’s situation, is raw, immediate and vivid in the writer’s prose, and the overall emotional impact is inescapable. It’s a story about not only fighting for justice for yourself (a hard enough struggle in the real world for many, God knows), but for those less fortunate, who don’t have the voice or the opportunity or perhaps even the courage. The narrator’s situation is horrifying, but in the end she knows where her energy is best directed, and it isn’t at the deaf ears surrounding her. It’s a sad and rather blunt point, but no less true. Men who are capable of abuse will, as this story demonstrates, hide behind any entitled ‘logic’ that they can in order to justify it, or simply to avoid paying the price. The fact that Khaw sets up the main thrust of her story in what amounts to a court hearing was definitely not lost on me.
This is not a story that offers much sympathy for the perceived plight of men in situations like this, because they hardly need the hand-holding. The result, in the end, doesn’t involve those in the wrong seeing the error of their ways. It does involve those who are in need being offered comfort when it’s most desperately sought, because THAT is what’s important. It might be a small thing, and it might be born of bitterness and having no other choice – but let’s face it, these are the cards we’re often left with. So this is not a story I’d ever call sugar-coated. It is one I’d hold up as required reading, no matter who you are.
Monster Girls Don’t Cry by A. Merc Rustad (Content note for descriptions of sexual violence)
Another story, another feminist narrative, and no, I will not get tired of highlighting these. This one, by another writer I am happy to have discovered for the first time, is the story of two sisters who happen to be monsters, and the lessons they learn about the ‘normal’ world when one tries to integrate with it. To be ‘normal’ herself, at the expense of everything that makes her what she is. There are disturbing scenes of violence in this story, as noted, which highlight the troubling tendency of the well-meaning ‘normal’ folk to try to force us to fit into their boxes regardless of the trauma it might cause us. But the message beneath it all is that, no matter how “monstrous” we might be, we are at our most powerful when we accept who and what we are, instead of trying to hide it. This is something that many would take away from us if they could; it’s up to us whether or not they succeed.
*Looks at the camera* *The camera is THE WHOLE WORLD*
So where can I get a Monster Girl badge?
(Also, check out this fab interview with the author, also featured in the latest Uncanny issue!)
Now, on to the unexpected delights jazzing up my reading list so far this month! Got a pair of punchy little chunks of awesome for you.
First of these is Charles Payseur’s flash fiction piece for Flash Fiction Online, A Lumberjack’s Guide to Dryad Spotting. This is a clever little piece that neatly twists its ending away from what I was expecting it to be, while giving us mythical woodland fairy creatures and – my heart never knew it needed this but oh sweet teacups it does now – gay lumberjack romance.
Yes, it all works. Read it and see.
Second is something I don’t read very much of but probably should – fan fiction! Specifically, Star Wars fan fiction. “Occupational Safety” by AO3 member, shadydave, was something I found after Mark Oshiro read it as one of his Patreon commissions (video is here) and I fell head over heels in love with it.
It features Finn and Poe Dameron, some wonderful bromantic banter, and the very important question of what the First Order has against safety rails.
Seriously, what is their problem with them?
It also solves the problem in a simple but genius way, and – though neither Mark nor I was ready for it – features a heartwarming and very possibly tear-inducing cameo at the end. Your feelings have been warned.
So I need more fan fiction. Specifically more Finn/Poe fan fiction, because that is my jam, my butter and the scone to put it all on for good measure.
On that note, I am going to go back to reading more awesome things. See you next time!