Each month, Daniel Haeusser reviews short works of SFT that appear both online and in print. He is an Assistant Professor in the Biology Department at Canisius College, where he teaches microbiology and leads student research projects with bacteria and bacteriophage. He’s also an associate blogger with the American Society for Microbiology’s popular Small Things Considered. Daniel reads broadly in English and French, and his book reviews can be found at Reading1000Lives or Skiffy & Fanty. You can also connect with him on Goodreads or Twitter.
“The Facecrafter” by Anna Wu, translated from the Chinese by Emily Jin
Clarkesworld #145, October 2018
Nuclear war has driven surviving humanity into underground shelters divided by professional specializations, with individuals mostly connecting through a cyberspace world of escape, aptly named Eden. Ling Xi’s job is oversight of a collection of surviving art work, and when some pieces go missing she has to discover what has happened. There is some interesting mixture of the mythological with science fiction speculation here, but from the beginning this story disappointed in its matter-of-fact language, which when not clunky, could serve as an illustration of why the writing adage states: ‘show, don’t tell’. I had to work hard to finish this one, and I regret that I did. Clarkesworld really needs to take a look at broadening the diversity of its translations.
“Our Lady of the Scales” by Mélanie Fazi, translated from the French by Edward Gauvin
World Literature Today 92 (6), November 2018
Technically, not November, but I couldn’t leave with the bad taste that Clarkesworld provided. This excellent short story effectively combines multiple themes into an atmospheric, gothic fantasy built of rich, poetic language. Its plot is simple. A woman navigates the emotions and biological consequences surrounding a hysterectomy performed to remove cancer from her body. Both before and after the procedure, a statuary garden at her lover’s family’s home attracts her with its stony beauty and invulnerability. The entire story serves as a type of siren’s call pulling the reader into empathy with the woman’s despair and yearning. It also poignantly relates the complexities of the lover’s struggles to support her, and augmenting senses of powerlessness in the face of biology. I am excited to find more to read from Fazi, whether in French or in translation.