Saturday, January 2, 2016

Touch Me All Over, by Betsy James

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(Fantasy) Hilil weaves and ties the best knots in Sulik, but a curse causes made things to fall apart at her touch. (5,251 words; Time: 17m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Recommended

"Touch Me All Over," by (edited by C.C. Finlay), appeared in issue 01-02|16, published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: Hilil takes her gifts for granted until the knife takes it all away. Her touch not only shatters objects, it shatters her connections to family and friends, and it shatters her spirit. The "paid men" do her one great service: they teach her that she wants to live.

Timon breaks the spell in three steps: first, he forges a relationship with her that does not break. Second, his little altar mends her spirit somehow. But Hilil has to take the final step, which she does by saying goodbye to all the knots she learned and loved so well. "Touch Me All Over and Grieve Unto Death."

She leaves the cave whole again, in some ways richer than she began. But now she has earned it all.

Con: We like the characters, but we don't feel a deep emotional connection to them.

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6 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. There's something lovely and fable-ish to this one. The idea of a curse where everything you touch comes apart is an awful, heartbreaking one, and I feel like the story does a really good job describing how devastating the process is.

    There's some similarity to Midas's predicament, but here, a lot of the anguish is in how vulnerable Hilil remains. Beyond the everything-I-touch-crumbles in and of itself, she's suddenly forced to defend herself, when she looks like easy prey.

    Definitely my favorite story of the issue, and one worth sharing around :)

  2. A fair number of stories have had a sort of fable structure lately. Not always with an obvious moral, though.

    1. I don't think it's just recent - I remember Orson Scott Card praising Jane Yolen for fable-stories back in 1990.

      I don't think it's about having a moral; it's more a different mode of writing. More mythic, stepping away from more "typical" causality, plausibility, and in-depth characters. Fable-ish stories are going for strong resonance, which is hard to define; it also lets resonance dictate story logic - "fairy-tale logic," as it were, but less "fairy tale" and more general myth and storytelling "logic."

      ...which makes stories in this mode very hit-and-miss; if they don't work well, if they don't achieve the resonance they're aiming for, then they have no safety net of plot, setting or character. They either feel deep and "mythically true", or else they feel arbitrary and forced.

      This one's a damned good one :D

  3. As someone who loves fiber crafts, I was especially moved by Hilil's unraveling curse. I liked how it ends up helping her defend herself and brings her closer to Timon, literally! There were some lovely details like how her holds her hand as she's explaining her situation. Altogether beautiful.

  4. Nice story! I guess the bearskin stayed together because it was organic

    1. Good thing, or her new boyfriend would have been really sorry he held hands with her! :-)