This month’s theme is hidden stories and secrets—and it came together inadvertently; I read a bunch of stories over the weekend and these were the ones that really spoke to me. There’s so many stories in the world and it’s often worth our time to look for those around the edges–as Joanna Russ says in How to Suppress Women’s Writing, it’s the edges where the growth happens.
The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington by Phenderson Djèlí Clark
Phenderson Djèlí Henderson’s “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” is an amazing series of vignettes about George Washington’s various teeth from (mostly) people who were enslaved at Mount Vernon. Each tooth has a story, a story which is intimately connected with the person it belongs to and a story which affects Washington in a different way, none of them pleasant. And at the same time, this is a vivid re-imagining of American history, one in which there’s different kinds of magics and mysteries which remain hidden to the reader.
A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow
“A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” from Alix E. Harrow is about libraries, a librarian-witch, and a patron who desperately needs a book to escape from his life. I found this to be a thoughtful and quite sad story—the narrator is a white woman in her 30’s who sees the distress of young black patron and she does her best to help him within the rules of her calling and with full knowledge of the social space between them. There’s so much love for libraries and fantasy novels of all kinds, even extruded fantasy product novels. Ultimately, this is a story about books finding their readers, and if you don’t find that delightful, you may not have a soul.
The Secret Life of Bots by Suzanne Palmer
Have I mentioned recently how much I love stories about AIs? Particularly stories like Suzanne Palmer’s “The Secret Life of Bots” where the AIs in question are so uniquely themselves even as they’re part of a whole. Bot 9 has been awakened after an extended period of time deactivated and given the task of hunting down an intruder on the Ship, and while executing its duties it comes across a number of other bots and they all work together to—well, that would spoil it. Let us just say that Bot 9 took some initiative where no one was expecting it to and using an internal botnet is able to accomplish something extraordinary.
A few other stories I read that I enjoyed, found interesting, or both:
- “Dust to Dust” by Mary Robinette Kowal. Loved the voice on this one.
- “An Incomplete Catalogue of Miraculous Births, or, Secrets of the Uterus Abscondita” by Rebecca Campbell. I am not entirely sure what was going on this one, but I found it utterly compelling nonetheless.
- “Contingency Plans for the Apocalypse” by S.B. Divya. This one’s upsetting on multiple levels and I feel like I should mention that a child is seriously injured, too. But I liked it! It was just upsetting because it painted an all too vivid picture of a near-future dystopia that I would very much like to not live in thank you very much.
- “Regarding Your Future With The Futures Planning Consortium” by Raq Winchester and Fran Wilde. This was a reread, but considering some of what I’m dealing with at my day job, well.