Saturday, September 08, 2012

Short Fiction Saturday

A couple of recent stories that I found worth mentioning in themselves, but also seemed to complement each other, with their takes on gender:

In Aliette de Bodard's "Heaven Under Earth" there is an unexplained shortage of women on a distant planet, settled by (Chinese) humans. Only some males, then, are allowed to be fathers, the eggs of what women there are are harvested and highly valued, and most males undergo a procedure that turns them in caihe, a sort of eunuch with an artificial uterus and mammary glands. Liang Pao, a caihe carrying a child for the husband, is the central character, and the tension comes when the new, fourth spouse turns out to be not a caihe but an actual woman.

"Love Might Be Too Strong a Word" by Charlie Jane Anders is a wild and imaginative story set on a massive space ship headed toward a new planet. There are many genders on the ship, determined by a person's rank and role in keeping the ship going, and Anders gives each of the genders their own sets of pronouns, which adds an intriguing touch to the story. The main gist of the narrative is a love story, sort of, in which a pilot (at the top of the ship's castes) falls in love with a low-caste cleaning person. Or seems to. The courtship news spreads throughout the ship, a lovely and romantic thing...except to the cleaning person Mab, who doesn't trust the pilot at all. The gender play is stunning throughout, and the imagination of it means this is a story that will likely stay with me.

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