Strange Horizons, February 2014
Author Website: http://www.toryhoke.com/
Short Women in Space, Review #3
Okay, Tory Hoke. Who are you and how did you get into my brain? Seriously, this piece was practically written for me. The aliens are amazing. The writing is charmingly snarky. The depth of the message is spot on. Okay, let’s back up for a minute before I hyperventilate.
Kay has just arrived on the Martian colony of New Plymouth, broke but not completely broken, trying to forget her crappy life back on Earth. She’s looking for a fresh start, but rent’s overdue, and she’s about to be homeless. Then salvation comes in the form of an ad for a strip joint:
Club Combustion seeks dancers. Vertebrates only.
It’s a respectable gig, especially compared to the alternatives, so Kay auditions and gets the job, based on her nice waist, natural teeth, and her “cold but not stuck-up” attitude. In any case, Kay ends up inadvertently performing a sex-act on a pushy, shark-finned, patron and when she denies him for a second time, the whole of the colony suffers the repercussions.
This is a great story about personal boundaries–not just setting them, which sometimes can be a feat in and of itself–but also sticking to them, fortifying them as necessary when others try to tear them down. It speaks directly to women, but can be broadened to a human lesson in general.
It could be said that in this story, Kay lacks agency, and is more reactionary than solving problems for herself. But the act of saying “no,” while it happened early on in the story, it continues to echo as she stands (or sometimes cowers) behind her words. This is the driving force of the plot. The story’s message is heavy, but it’s depth does not burden the sheer entertainment value in any way. I think this is what impresses me the most. Give it a read, and watch for more great things from this author.