This week’s stories are about the necessity of resistance. Resisting the pull of depression, government control, or temptation by an apple.
Liminal Grid By Jaymee Goh | Strange Horizons
On the side of the hill at the edge of the town, Bander Ayer Puteh, is a failed housing development project, formerly called Falim Heights. Four blocks stand fourteen stories tall in a quasi-hexagon shape, and their windows bristle with tall lalang and the branches of trees that have taken over the rooms inside. If you squint you can make out the courtyard between hill and blocks, but the view is obscured by the vines overhanging the base of the buildings. The walls used to be pink, but they are now gray from grime and moss, wherever they have not been covered by duit-duit and other creepers. The blocks were built as luxury condos for rich retirees who wanted to pretend to return to rural life, but there were no buyers and the development company went bankrupt. The actual rural people sighed in relief and went about planting their rice and tending their crops.
I love everything about this story. The voice, the tone, the dialogue, the characters, the story itself. I love the core of the story, summed up here: “Tyrants must be told somehow that they will be left in the morass of their own corruption. Everyone has the right to live, grow, dream, build at their own pace. Leaving, too, is resistance.” Highly Recommended.
image credit: B Smith on Flickr
Shimmering, Warm, and Bright by Shveta Thakrar | Interfictions Online
Tejal peered out the window at Marseille. The day was gray, a rarity for the normally sunny city. Not the reassuring gray of an old sweater or even the sky on an autumn day, offset by the trees in all their fiery foliage, but the dense gray of thick fog. All her mother’s colorful fabrics and carved wooden antiques were so out of place in the gray, they made her flinch.
The cloud wall cracked open just slightly, and a single ray of sunlight stole through, landing on her shoulder, butterfly bright—too bright. Too yellow. Too happy.
She shrugged it off and pressed her lips together as if that somehow would stop her heart from seizing up. Everyone thought great art came from suffering: depression, that infamous artists’ affliction. How very romantic, they said, sighing dreamily at the image of tortured painters locked away in a garret, splashing acrylics onto canvas without stopping to eat or sleep. Of writers sitting in cafés, weeping into cups of scalding black coffee while scrawling feverishly into a fresh Moleskin journal. I wish I could do that.
What crap. It was the ugliest idea in the world. It made her want to spit.
There was nothing romantic about this sorrow, not its roots in sickness nor the weight with which it sat in her chest, smothering her. It hurt. It hurt, it hurt, it hurt. Tejal bore flash burns of that ache in every cell, scars only she could see, and she wasn’t even an artist.
The sunbeam had sneaked its way back onto her shoulder, circling and nuzzling. Now it stroked her cheek just the way Masi used to. Tejal shuddered and shoved it away, her skin rubbed raw with memory.
She didn’t want to be here, in this house. She’d come to pack it up before finding a lodger for the year—after all, who else was there to do it?—but now, standing in the empty kitchen, all she wanted was her family. Maman, Papa.
Another beautifully written story from Thakrar, and one that particularly speaks to me as a person who deals with depression and dreads the winter months. This story isn’t only about that, though. It’s about family bonds and how we sometimes wrap ourselves up in them and sometimes run away as if they are shackles.
Variations on an Apple by Yoon Ha Lee | Tor.com
The goddesses came to him three, when he was already thinking about numbers. One had her hair high-crowned with peacock’s feathers woven together, and her mouth sardonic. One had hair the color of a yellow sun above the noontide sea, foam-fine, her eyes sideways smiling. And the last was tapping a war beat upon the helmet under her arm, one-two, one-two-three, one-two.
He didn’t see them at first, lost in sandglass musings, and polygons begetting polygons, and infinite sums. In one-to-one correspondences and sheep counted by knots upon cords. An abacus, resting on his knee, dreamed of binary numbers and quantum superpositions; harmless enough, in this slant of time. It wasn’t so much that Paris was a mathematician. Rather, it was that Ilion was a creation of curvatures and angles and differential seductions, and he was the city’s lover.
Then the first visitor said, quietly but not gently, “Paris,” and he looked up.
Paris set his stylus aside, trailing smudged thumbprints and a candle-scatter of photons. “I must remember to get drunk more often,” he said quizzically, “if the results are always this agreeable.”
The first goddess gave him a smile like leaves curling under frost. “What a pity for you,” Hera said. “You’d like this much better if it were about pressing wine from your fancies.”
“Then—?” Paris said. “You can’t be here because you’re looking for my charming company. At least, I can’t imagine that charming company is difficult for you to find.”
“Hasn’t your father ever warned you about being glib?” Hera said.
He only smiled, on the grounds that opening his mouth would just irritate her. Hera was high on his list of people not to irritate.
It was then that Hera produced the apple. Its brightness was such that everything around it looked dimmer, duller, drained of succulence. “What a prize,” she said softly, bitterly. “No one wants the damn thing, except being uncrowned by its light is even worse. Someone has to claim it.”
“Choose by random number generator?” Paris said, because someone had to.
“As if anything is truly random in the stories we write for ourselves,” Athena said. Because of the apple, even her voice was gray, not the clear gray of a sky forever breaking dawnward, but the gray of bitter smoke.
“Why me?” Paris asked, the next obvious question. Or maybe the first one, who knew.
“Because there’s a siege through the threads of time,” Athena said, “and you are knotted into it. Not that you’re the only one, but that’s not yours to know, not yet.”
Paris looked yearningly at the abacus, but it had no answer for him. “I am under no illusions that Ilion will stand forever,” he said. “Still, I had hoped it would last a little longer.”
“If that’s your wish,” Hera said, “choose accordingly.”
“Indeed,” Athena murmured.
Aphrodite said nothing, only continued to smile with her sideways eyes, and Paris went hot and cold, fearing that the puzzle had no solution.
I read this right after hearing Kate Elliott read her new story The Beatriceid at Borderlands Books the other week. They go perfectly together, but you’ll need to wait until next month to experience the synergy. Read this story now, anyway. It’s a take on the story of the Trojan War that I’ve not seen before.And it’s no mean feat to make me sympathize with Paris, whom I have resented since the first time I ever had to read the Iliad. The story plays around a bit with the concept of Fate that runs through the Homeric myths as well as with the characters in his epic drama. Even Helen comes out much better.
art credit: Wesley Allsbrook for Tor