Short Fiction Friday

I've continued reading as much short fiction as I can recently, despite the busy schedule. Here are a few stories of late that have stood out for me. I'd already jotted down the links to include in this post before I'd even realized that despite being four stories, it's only two writers, each with two of them.

First is "Cutting" by Ken Liu. I upload Electric Velocipede's posts every week to my Nook, and this one didn't upload quite correctly. The story simply repeated itself three times, but because of the Calvino-esque subject of the monks' beliefs, I read it through each time, trying to see if there was anything changed. There wasn't, but then I read the editor notes and realized I needed to check out the actual site. The story itself is great (even worth reading through three times), and the way Liu uses the story in the subsequent iterations is both clever and meaningful.

And then continuing my ereader mishaps, Lightspeed didn't load properly, so I went to the site and discovered "The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species," also by Ken Liu. Again there's what I'd call a Calvino sense of play and wonder, cataloging an imaginative array of aliens and the use they make of books or book-like objects.

The other two stories are both by Alex Dally MacFarlane and both involve foxes. In truth, I think the more important commonality (and the part that especially drew me to these two) is the sense of a people struggling to maintain its ways in the face of an antagonistic dominant culture. In "Feed Me the Bones of Our Saints" its a group of women and foxes who have developed a way of life as hunting pairs. They've been driven away from their ancestral homes, and the stories of them cast them as ridiculous caricatures. Those who survive now seek to reclaim the bones of some of their ancestors. It is a sad and powerful story. In "Fox Bones. Many Uses." the foxes are hunted by the main character's people, and the different bones consumed to produce different magic. Za's position among her people is complicated by the fact that she has a child whose father comes from the dominant culture, so she and the child are not completely trusted by her own people. When soldiers come after the village, it takes fox-bone magic and a guess about the soldiers' weaknesses to protect her people.