And here is a little rarity - a story about a society at war, about how societies' structures and norms change in such circumstances, but especially about the price of taking up arms and of killing, and an unusual take on how to end war and bring about peace.
Unusual, maybe, but something I can greatly sympathise with - described and executed with the clarity and simplicity of mind of a child, and an impeccable logic.
The Days of the War, as Red as Blood, as Dark as Bile by Aliette de Bodard is set in her Xuya Universe, in the future/SF branch, and was originally published by Subterranean Press. A lot of things remain unsaid, unexplained, and you don't need to know them to appreciate the story and its marvelous conclusion. You also don't need to be familiar with the other Xuya works to appreciate this, either (but I would suggest you start reading these should you like this short story!)
The image on the right comes from Pinterest and without original attribution - if anybody knows where it is from then please let me know, so I can add credit where credit it due!
For this month I'd like to point you, not for the first time, at a short story by Aliette de Bodard.
This time is a classic adventure tale called The Dragon's Tears, initially published by Electric Velocipede in 2008, and re-published by Lightspeed Magazine this month (you can obtain a hardcopy of the issue via the link below!)
The story is one which has been told in ever so many variants across all the different cultures - it follows a young man who goes on an adventure to obtain the means to heal his terminally ill mother. I'm not going to spill what makes this iteration of the trope specific, you can find that out yourself through the old-fashioned process of reading the story, but I can confirm that this is indeed well written, and affecting, and worth your time.
The rather wonderful picture on the right is from an artist calling him/herself Reverie Addict, and is not related to the story save by sharing its title.
Now, finally available to read without having to buy a collection with some much more questionable content - I present you with what I feel to be a classic Peter Watts 'Military SF' (this definitely deserves the quotes with Peter) story Collateral.
This was originally published in the collection Upgraded, edited by Neil Clarke, but was now also re-published in Lightspeed Magazine and is also available from Peter's own Rifters site.
It is a stand-alone story following an augmented soldier after she has killed a number of apparent civilians on a fishing trip (on an ecologically dead sea...), which turned into a political shitstorm and could not be swept under the carpet. So now her assignment is to play along in damage limitation activities in the public eye, whilst her reflexes, her ethics, her morals, and other parts of her personality involved in battlefield engagements are being 'optimised'. It's not pretty, it has its surprises, and it is very well done.
This has strong echoes of both Malak (Peter's story of Drone warfare and free will) and of his anti-hero Achilles Desjardins from his Starfish trilogy - both of which I strongly recommend to read if you haven't done so.
The amazing picture on the right comes from Staffprod Staffpub via a Pinterest collection.
In-between all these reviews, and my complaining of stories falling short of my overly picky expectations here and there, let's give this a break. Here is a treat instead, in the shape of a link to and a recommendation for a short story by Ian McDonald, called Some Strange Desire.
It concerns the machinations of a subspecies, a variant of humanity, two chromosomes apart, living alongside us. They are gender-fluid, able to change quickly and as desired. They work as prostitutes, as they require human haploid cells they acquire during sexual intercourse, to allow their extended life span. But there are threats to them, now, both from within their own making, and from the outside.
And I suspect I've told you too much already, just to whet your appetites. The cultural background Ian wrote for this is part Jewish, part West-African/Haitian Voodoo, and part Witchcraft, and it's utterly fascinating.
The story was originally published in Omni Magazine, and was nominated for a World Fantasy Award. The illustration is by Robert K. J. Killheffer.
And now for something completely different, to say it with Monty Python. Actually, this is not true - this is a different form, but rather in line with many other of my posts here.
So - I would like to introduce you to a poem, poetically (er) titled Brown woman at Safety Beach, Victoria, In June, by the illustrator, writer, and poet M Sereno. M Sereno was born in Manila, but now lives in Australia with family and pets, including, according to her, a cat which thinks it's a Koala. I'll just leave this here...
I find the poem rather evocative, and full of both mystery and strength, but would suggest you see (and feel) for yourself. It was first published in the May/June edition of Uncanny Magazine, which is also where the links sprinkled around this article point for the poem, and where the picture on the right hand side comes from.
Could I suggest that, after reading M Sereno's poem, you have a look at the magazine (much recommended in my opinion) and see if this is something you would consider supporting?