David Eddings. He was my entry into stories that had entire worlds created from scratch. I vividly remember reading the descriptions of taverns and castles, forests and creatures, and all the magic. The Belgariad and Mallorean series were fun, with characters growing, wars being fought between gods and humans, and gentle endings. More than anything, how Eddings described the world he created was a marvel to me then: that language could be used to paint pictures.
A while later though came Ursula LeGuin, and, the Left Hand of Darkness (I didn't read the Earthsea trilogy until much later). This solidified my interest in speculative fiction. There were no wars here; no conflicts except those of relationships, interpretation, cultural negotiation and expectation. While Eddings opened my eyes to using language to paint vivid images, LeGuin created a sandbox-of-words where I could experiment with ideas.
It's in that vein of thought-provoking and "anthropological" SF I have this week's notables.
TinHouse's "Between the Covers" podcast has a wonderful, lengthy podcast with Becky Chambers on how she approaches creating alien cultures. But what seems to have influenced Chambers' in her appreciation of the genre was much more a treat, especially because it mirrored my own appreciation of LeGuin's work.
Onyebuchi's story is an experience, not simply a story. He writes in a spoken-word style, with sentences delivering anger and sadness in turns, and is completely enthralling. It centers around Ella and her brother Kev, growing up in an increasingly antagonistic America. Ella has some supernatural powers, but ones she can't control fully, and more importantly, would spell hell for her mother and Kev if others found out. Kev grows up and is incarcerated for unjust reasons. This is a story very much from current times in Black America. The experience is emotional and jarring. This is a story from behind the headlines and it's hard to think of this as just fiction.
This is a horrifying story. And yet it's an incredibly beautiful one. Brokenness, being defined by that brokenness, and finding a path through it (despite it) and becoming something more is the story of the small monster. If Yu meant this as an allegory, which I believe she did, then it meets its mark. I have so many questions for the author. But for now, I recommend this short story to everyone: read it at least twice.
These are the kinds of stories FC lives for. Spread the word and invite your friends & family to subscribe. You'll get more of these each week along with curiosities all around sci-fi and fantasy works.
As always thanks for reading and hit me up with what caught your eye, what you'd like to see mentioned.