Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Rock, Paper, Incisors, by David Cleden

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(Fantasy Horror) The narrator resents being transformed into a monster to fight for her tribe, not least because she thinks they're screwing it up. (5,879 words; Time: 19m)

Rating: ★★★★★ This award-winning story is chilling yet uplifting.

This story won the The 2016 James White Award.
"Rock, Paper, Incisors," by (edited by Andy Cox), appeared in issue 267, published on by .

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

Pro: At first, the narrator just wants to die, but as she gradually realizes the game is rigged, she decides to fight back. First she resists her trainer by accident, becoming a rock instead of a knife, and that gives her a tie instead of a loss. Then she resists on purpose, becoming a dancer instead of a knife, but that gives her another tie instead of a win. Finally she conspires with her opponent--her twin brother--and they both becomes knives and flee together. In fact, it appears that they're going to take the rich hunting grounds for themselves--the same ones the tribes have been fighting over.

We feel strongly for the narrator, who was clearly betrayed first by her own mother at birth, then by her beloved and finally by her trainer. We learn that she's a good person (she doesn't even kill any of the people who betrayed her), and she didn't deserve this, but we also learn that she's clever, and we applaud her victory.

Con: The tight match to rock-paper-scissors is a little silly. One would also expect that the organizers of these events would have taken precautions against runaway shape shifters.

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1 comment (may contain spoilers):

  1. I rate it ★★★★, one less than RSR. The story had good action-packed writing and a plot with a nice structure (twins playing rock, paper, scissors). It was a fun read, impressive for a newish writer, but it seemed to be missing a special something to be award-worthy.

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