In my last Antler Review, I fucked up. So naturally, like a well-adjusted adult, I ignored the project for a while to concentrate on other things. My apologies; I am back at it.
Here’s what caught my attention in July!
- Two different stories in Uncanny Magazine’s ongoing dinosaur issue had me tears and throes of joy, for two very different reasons.
- K.M. Szpara‘s twist-the-knife tale of familial tension, identity, and mirror universes just gutted me. I like to think about other timelines where things turned out differently, but there’s always something inherently sad about that. How does what never was differ from what was never meant to be? How can dinosaurs brought to life in a lab change our ideas about what is possible, versus what we allow to persist because we cannot imagine any better? Szpara is a fantastic writer and I’ve got other scars on my heart from his work. Anyway, you should read “You Can Make a Dinosaur, but You Can’t Help Me.”
- “By Claw, By Hand, By Silent Speech” had my number at once. I love stories that involve the use of American Sign Language. I studied it for a number of years and am fascinated by its linguistics, the unique poetic resonances made possible by an embodied visual language, and I’d like to see more of it in stories and films (thank you Shape of Water and A Quiet Place.) Written by the team of Elsa Sjunneson-Henry and A. Merc Rustad, this story completes a masterful set of turns on the idea of what it means for predator and prey to share a language. It also uses the imposition of silence to inform tension in a way that I found both daring and delicious.
- LeVar Burton is doing us all the delightful service of reading us stories like he did back in the Reading Rainbow days and I just love it. He lent his talent to Rebecca Roanhorse’s “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience,” and if you haven’t already read this Nebula-winning, Sturgeon-winning, Hugo-nominated story, please consider letting Mr. Burton read it to you. He is a gifted and inimitable performer, and he brings the world-weary knowledge that only someone who had graciously pretended to be Geordi LaForge for generations of sweaty fans can add to a story like this one. The series is called LeVar Burton Reads, and it’s ongoing.
- On a related note, I read Roanhorse’s new book, “Trail of Lightning” earlier this month and found it really original and quite fascinating. A canny and careless monster-hunter fights the gods themselves across an unrecognizable American landscape, armed with a shotgun and the weight of history. I found the author’s use of Navajo vocabulary and place names pleasantly disorienting, then rewarding when I could look things up or figure them out. I hope to see a lot more from this talented author.
- More books! I pre-ordered Seanan McGuire’s “The Girl in the Green Silk Gown,” the follow-up to her electrifying “Sparrow Hill Road.” It’s a beautifully intricate tale about that girl you’ve heard all the stories about; the one who hitchhikes and leaves your sweater on her grave, the one who’s always just trying to get home but when you look in the rearview she’s not there. McGuire’s greatest strength is that she can tell you EXACTLY how magical worlds and fae courts and ghost unions work without taking an ounce of magic out of them. If you like a sturdily-built world populated with wise-cracking heartbreakers: meet your queen.
- Alissa Nutting’s “Made for Love” was suggested to me by actual genius Maggie Tokuda-Hall, and boy has she figured me out. This painfully truth tale of intertwined weirdos serves up some improbable things: possessive tech bros, dolphin fetishists, a dying man pressed between sex dolls, and the love they all share. The voice of the protagonist is plaintive, flawed, hilarious and deeply uncomfortable. It reminded me strongly of Chuck Palahniuk at his best (look, I love his work. We can talk about problematic shit later, ok?) except that Nutting can write women who are actual people.
- Finally: this essay by Laurie Penny. (Again, if you want to talk about problematic shit, see me after class. She can write an argument.) I don’t love the resurrection of Queer Eye, despite the universal acclaim among my people for the Fab Five. Penny points out the thing that nags me the most about the concept and content of the show: that (mostly, not always) cishet men get away with externalizing the domestic and emotional labor of adulthood and personhood to the women in their lives, and the team on this show offer a lot of compassion and instruction to them about how they can haltingly, painfully learn to do it for themselves. I think Penny is spot-on when she points out that this is the kind of work that will likely ensure a better future, by teaching men how to like themselves and dress themselves and feed themselves with kindness rather than shame. I just can’t bear to watch it. All I can see in the subjects of this show are the exhausted, wrung-out, discarded women in the wings who were never given their due for the work the Fab Five do for fun. Additionally, Penny points out that the invisible member of the team is money. That cannot be underestimated when we talk about what it takes to make life livable and dignified for everybody.