Hugo 2019 Reading – April

April was filled with travel, and then catching up on everything when I came back. I read for book club and from my 3 years deep to be read pile, so not as much what was published this year. But I found some really good stories.

Earn Your Breath” by Jaime O. Mayer
a short story published by Cast of Wonders

I liked the struggle in this story, against invaders, and against the societal expectations for genders imposed by Mother Breathless. I wanted to give this story five stars, but felt like the world building left out a crucial part – how do infertile women earn their breath mark? Are they shunned as well? It is true that if the society had taken infertile women into account, then Liith wouldn’t have had to struggle as much, as she would have had some kind of example to follow. Then again – intention for having children may have been enough to earn a breath mark, and Liith would still be left with her struggle. Yeah, good plot, good tension, admirable character, but that missing piece just ruins things for me.

(5 stars) “The Paper Dragon” by Stephen S. Power
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

An emotional story set in WWII that involves the Japanese sending an origami dragon to America to attack. Now, I’m under the impression that Japanese dragons are more peaceful than European dragons, so I’m not sure if this fits with actual Japanese culture. But the message about apologizing and seeking peace really hit home.

The Persistence of Blood” by Juliette Wade
a novella published by Clarkesworld

This story is set in another world with an invented culture, but beyond wysps that just float around, there wasn’t anything that set apart from Earth. Like “Earn Your Breath”, this story also dealt with a woman who no longer wanted to bear children in a society where it is expected. Unlike “Earn Your Breath”, this story included infertile women and how societal expectations affected them as well, so I appreciate that aspect. The ending was a bit disappointing, as no great changes were made, though the incremental was hopeful. I did like Selemei, her devotion to her children, and her determination to make things better for herself and other women.

You Do Nothing But Freefall” by Cassandra Khaw and A. Maus
a short story published by Lightspeed

This story was surprising. I hadn’t expected the fox to become human when it leaves with the maneki-neko. It was a bit hard to follow in audio, as I didn’t have a scene break cue to tell me that time had passed. It’s cute, exploring the confusion, and joy that is humanity.

Into the Gray” by Margaret Killjoy
a short story published by

I’ve been enjoying the pictures for Mermay on twitter, so when I went looking on for another story to read for this month, this one caught my eye. The prose flows beautifully. There were a couple of revelations at the end that made me question the beginning – how did Laria know the man she murdered was bad if she didn’t know anything about him, and how did he react when she became naked? But these can be glossed over because Laria could be a bit of an unreliable narrator in this instance. I also want to study the structure, as the first conflict seems resolved a third of the way through the story, but then leads into the bigger conflict at the end.

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