“The Gaps in Translation” by Andrea Corbin

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Oct 15, 2014 in Reviews

Crossed Genres
Author Website: http://www.sharedepic.com/

In this story of a second contact, three humans visit a world inhabited by lizard-like people, some hundred years after the first contact. They are greeted by immediate differences based on what they’ve learned from the recordings of the first contact, specifically the flying “gliders” the lizzies now ride upon. Even the language has evolved, giving Miranda, the linguistics expert of the group, some trouble:

««Hello,»» Jago said, in the best lizzie that he had picked up from the old recordings. The lizzies hesitated and looked at him. Their faces were enough like humans that Miranda was almost fooled into thinking she could read the expression, but she caught herself. It looked like one of them smiled in amusement, but it could be a grimace, indicating offense.

««Hello,»» one of them replied. It looked at each of them in turn. ««You can come —- you will meet —– who —- you.»»

Miranda understood only pieces of what it said. Their chips were set to listen and recalibrate at first, making Miranda’s background studying theoretical neurolinguistics even more valuable for a few days. Though she was the expert on the lizzie language, she had trouble catching everything. The accent seemed to have changed and Miranda’s ear wasn’t ready for it.

««Repeat, please. Come where?»»

The lizzie clapped its hands, and curled its tail. Pleased. That was an action she’d seen in the recordings. It’d been a hundred years since the first brief visit. Enough time to record and observe, enough data to study that Miranda could learn to speak well enough.

I’m a sucker for linguistics stories, and love how language unfolds and mutates, so this was right up my alley. The lizard aliens were great, and I particularly enjoyed the terse and coy comments by Co, the elder lizard who was alive for the first contact. I really got a good feeling for the lizard culture and it seemed both alien and familiar at the same time. I was curious to learn more about their gender roles, though the story left that open. My one big hangup with this is that I never really bought into the human characters. Their actions seemed a little arbitrary to me and their decisions unfocused and unclear, especially towards the end of the story. While they were believable, even enjoyable as characters, I just didn’t believe that someone, somewhere would have decided they were the best fit for a mission as important as a second contact. That aside, this was a fun read, and it explores some interesting themes on the influences cultures can have upon one another.

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Communion by Mary Anne Mohanraj

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Oct 11, 2014 in Reviews

Author Website: www.mamohanraj.com


Chaurin has left the tunnel-cities of his homeworld to find the remains of his brother, killed at a gaudy human city on the planet Kriti. He doesn’t understand what drove his brother to want to live among the humans, so light and slight, and easy to dispose of.  While he is not here to exact his revenge, the thought does cross his mind. He’s more nervous about the state of his brother’s body, six months after his death. Chaurin has gotten here as fast as he could manage, but is devastated when he is presented with the remains in a small box:

Chaurin reached out a hand, and then pulled it back. He’d thought he was prepared, but the shock of seeing the box made his mouth go dry, so that he had to swallow before he could speak. “Is this all there is? Was he . . . cremated?” The word was unfamiliar in Chaurin’s mouth, but he had learned it, just in case. He hadn’t known what he would find on arrival, so had studied human death customs on the long journeys between Jump points. He hadn’t been able to afford a luxury cruise; the clan had barely scraped together enough to buy him passage on a freighter. They had been afraid to wait longer than they had to, afraid of what would happen to Gaurav’s remains.

Amara is one of the humans that had been spared from death due to Gaurav’s bravery. She’s still trying to process the senseless violence and loss of life, and has stepped away from her career in law enforcement to tend to a garden at the memorial site, using her hands to make things grow in Kriti’s stingy soil. When a broad and terse saurian suddenly stands before her, she thinks she’s seeing Gaurav again…no not him, but strikingly similar, and his imposing look suggests he means business.

Mary Anne does an exquisite job weaving together the narratives of these two characters. Each offers a glimpse of the other and the world surrounding them as filtered through their views with all the glory of their cultural baggage. Even more impressive are the turns this story takes. Just when you think you know where it’s going–bam! Didn’t see that coming. The writing is seamless, allowing me to immerse myself in the world, right up until the sad moment I noticed my browser’s scroll bar coming to the end of the page. This is a story of how death and destruction can tie strangers together, even if they’re species from different sides of the cosmos. Some things truly are universal–from the act of bringing life into this world, to the act of commemorating a life extinguished. The customs may be vastly differ on the outside, and they may even seem barbaric filtered through one’s own cultural lenses, but the emotions that rim the heart do no waver. I think it is important to be often reminded that the way one sees things is not the right way, but only a way, so give it a read, or even a re-read. This is one you don’t want to miss.

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“Ten Rules for Being an Intergalactic Smuggler (the Successful Kind)” by Holly Black

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Oct 6, 2014 in Writer's Life

Lightspeed, September 2014
Author Website: http://blackholly.com/


Short Women in Space, Review #6

In this novelette, a young girl stows away on her uncle’s cargo ship, fleeing a homesteader lifestyle on the boring planet her parents immigrated to. Life aboard the ship presents its own challenges when she realizes that her parents’ warnings about her uncle weren’t completely unfounded. He’s an intergalactic smuggler, but there’s no turning back now. She’ll just have to learn the rules so she can properly follow in his footsteps.

She’s heard a lot of bad things about spaceports, but when she lands on Zvezda-9, it doesn’t live up to the hype. No one’s trying to slip her drugs, no flesh-ripping Charkazak anywhere in sight.

Zvezda-9 is a big stretch of cement tunnels, vast microgravity farms, hotel pods, and general stores with overpriced food that’s either dehydrated or in a tube. There are also InterPlanetary offices, where greasy-looking people from a variety of worlds wait in long lines for licenses. They all stare at your homespun clothes. You want to grab your uncle’s hand, but you already feel like enough of a backworld yokel, so you curl your fingers into a fist instead.

There are aliens—it wasn’t like your parents were wrong about that. Most of them look human and simultaneously inhuman, and the juxtaposition is so odd that you can’t keep from staring. You spot a woman whose whole lower face is a jagged-toothed mouth. A man with gray-skinned cheeks that grow from his face like gills or possibly just really strange ears loads up a hovercart nearby, the stripes on his body smeared so you know they are paint and not pigmentation. Someone passes you in a heavy, hairy cloak, and you get the impression of thousands of eyes inside of the hood. It’s creepy as hell.

After she’s over the initial shock of it all, after she’s gotten herself some high-tech threads, some trendy holographic earrings, and a don’t-mess-with-me swagger, she realizes this place is exactly what she was running away from — boring.

That is until her uncle scores a no-questions-asked job of a lifetime, smuggling a cylindrical casket full of something, or more likely — someone — to an unscrupulous genetics lab. And of course, these things can never go well. Will pluck and her uncle’s rules be enough to get our heroine out of an intergalactic bind?

For all of the blood and guts and gore in this story, it’s a truly charming one. On top of being emotionally wrenching, it’s also masterfully written. The first time I came across this story, I moved right past it, thinking the format was a gimmick, but there’s no gimmick here, just pure and awesome storytelling. I’m so glad I went back to give it a full read. It’s really uplifting to see a young woman in space, setting out on adventures, solving momentous problems, and making a name for herself. This one is a bit of a time commitment, coming in at over 8000 words, but I promise, by the end of it you’ll be wishing there were 8000 more.

Sally Ride

REAL Women in Space
Sally Ride
First American woman in space
STS-7 (Jun. 18, 1983)
Creative Commons

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