I am so unprepared for May. Are you unprepared for May? Well let's make it a little easier with some quality fiction and journalism. As with every time I gather my favorite reads, everything listed here is free to read. The link to read is in the title of each piece. April was an unusually good month for humorous and quirky fiction, which got me through some rough times. Let's have a look!
"Attending Your Own Funeral: An Etiquette Guide" by Erica L. Satifka at Daily Science Fiction
-Quirky, morbid, and with just enough heart, this story gets you ready to see your own funeral, in the next universe over. The other attendees? All parallel universe versions of the same lady, naturally, who compare notes on their successes and tragedies. Who stole technology, who destroyed the atmosphere, and what the heck they were after in the first place. Satifka packs so many neat ideas into a tight package.
"Running safety tips for humans" by Marissa Lingen at Nature Magazine
-Science Fiction often examines alien invasions. But did the last one figure out how our alien overlords will ruin jogging? This is a delightful piece of list fiction, breaking down the hazards of a possibly human-eating species that's babysitting our planet, and how to stay fit while they're in control.
"Lacuna" by Lane Robins at Strange Horizons
excellent piece that connects different tonal chunks. From the first
break, as a new voice finishes the sentence of the old and changes the
context, we begin to appreciate the breadth of the fictional city of
Lacuna. Each chunk moves so swiftly, with such fluid prose, that I often
had to re-read it because I was flying too quickly. It's full of
dynamite sentences, all the way to the close.
"The Black Clover Equation" by Zach Shephard at Flash Fiction Online
-Disclosure: I have a story in the same issue as "Black Clover Equation." Yet I'm including this anyway because it's freaking hilarious and exactly the sort of story idea I wish I'd come up with. An investigator goes about crossing black cats, walking under ladders, picking up four-leaf clovers, in as many variations as they can, in order to objectively chart how much good and bad luck things give you. It's my favorite kind of fictional science: ridiculous and rigorous. The conclusions are astounding. Lucky us, we just have to read about them.
"How Not to Fight the Murder Zombies" by Ferrett Steinmetz on his blog
little advice guide on when to hide and when to confront ravenous
hordes. It may feel comfortable to stay in the closet perpetually, and
you may even be compelled to mock those "stupid" enough to not stay
hidden, but where does that get you?
"I Ate Three Eggs Every Single Morning For A Week - Here's What Happened" by ActionCookBook at Every Day Should Be Saturday
-A totally pedestrian foody story. Nothing absolutely mad happens in it at all. I promise.
"The Tree That Owns Itself" at Atlas Obscura
-In Athens, Georgia, there lived a man who passionately loved an oak tree. He loved it so much that when he died, he willed the land the treed lived on to the tree itself. The government of Athens went, "Cool," and let it grow until it was slain by a storm in the 1940s. But here's where the citizens won my heart: they gathered its acorns, and planted its child in its place, transferring over the owning rights to the next descendant in its family.
"The Fallacy of Agency: on Power, Community, and Erasure" by Aliette de Bodard at Uncanny Magazine
-As a Horror fan and a chronically ill person, I've long been skeptical of fiction's fetish for agency. Many of the great stories of persistence are about people surviving where they have little or no agency. You cannot tell the most pressing stories of the American healthcare system or poverty without a focus on people who have no agency. Likewise, the most affecting Horror stories require periods of low agency; if the main character can just shrug off what the ghost is doing, then it won't be frightening. Here, Bodard does an excellent job peeling away that all stories should be about a character's power to change things, both alone and altogether.
"Pastor Raises Money to Buy Out Liquor Stores Near Reservation" by Jim Kent at NPR
-This is one of those stories that stuck with me because I can't think of a healthy and non-paternalistic answer. There is a tiny town of fourteen people near a Native American reservation in Nebraska. Those fourteen people run four liquor stores, which the Native Americans frequent, buying over four million cans of beer a year. Alcohol sales are prohibited on the reservation itself, and so a Christian pastor has begun collecting money to buy out the stores and destroy the business, helping to dry up the population. Some customers of the store attest to wishing it would go away even as they walk out with brown paper bags. There's an impulse to destroy the stores in order to honor the traditions on the reservation, but is it right to support traditions that the population itself doesn't support? At what point are outsiders being paternalistic by intervening?
"A Millennial Feminist Explains the New Feminism to a Boomer Feminist Philosopher" by Katie Halper at Paste Magazine
-People are rightfully still furious that we wound up with Trump as president, and older Democrats relish in throwing shade at younger ones. There's still a stunning disparity in the criticism Bernie Sanders gets for "costing" Clinton the election rather than criticizing Clinton for failing us all, but it's much grosser when Millennials who supported and voted for Clinton get ragged on for not being supportive enough. Halper does an excellent job here in dismantling attacks on Millennial politics, while enumerating Clinton's strengths and shortcomings, charting how Candidate-Sanders got Clinton to move to a better stances. There are lessons that need to be taken on how we talk to younger voters if we're ever going to turn any of this around. But if we're going to treat their concerns seriously…
"Abortion Access Is an Economic Justice Issue, and Democrats Should Remember That" by Atima Omara at Rewire
…then we need to have serious conversations about what actually constitutes economic justice. This article does a great job of reframing the current Economic Justice Vs. Identity Politics debate, because in addition to being a human rights issue, access to abortion absolutely is an economic issue. Wealthy Conservatives have long hypocritically gotten abortions whenever they wanted because they had the funds to get such services locally or travel for them, and the ability to keep them discrete, thus maintaining the illusion that they were "pure". Mandating all pregnancies be carried to term places enormous financial pressures on women and greatly harms their ability to earn a living. Especially in a current climate where Republicans are trying to slash assistance to poor families, it's cruel of economic-minded liberals to ignore the need for family planning and bodily autonomy. It shouldn't be treated as just another issue. The major problem with the fight for abortion rights is…
"Why Was Heath Mello Thrown Under the Bus?" by D.D. Guttenplann at The Nation
…in all-or-nothing fights, pro-choice loses in more than half of this country. The big explosion in Democratic circles last month surrounded Democrat Heath Mello, who ran for mayor in a city in Nebraska. He is anti-abortion, and liberals jumped on Bernie Sanders for supporting him. Mello works in a deeply conservative state, and being known as against abortion allowed him work with Republicans to pass softer versions of anti-abortion legislation than they would have without him. He was an incremental improvement in a state that was opposed to even that much. It's awful that you would have to make compromises like that, but the only alternative would be Republicans restricting women's rights even worse. Barack Obama himself could move to Nebraska, dump all his money into campaigning, and still wouldn't win a seat there. This is one of those states where Heath Mello is a necessary ally. He lost, and that's not our biggest problem.