Thursday, February 9, 2017

Queen of Dirt, by Nisi Shawl

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(Contemporary Fantasy; Brit Williams) Teenage Brit enjoys teaching little kids at a Seattle Experience Outreach camp, even though she senses that something evil haunts the abandoned bunkers up the hill. (5,700 words; Time: 19m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Unexpectedly Touching

Although there are references to “Street Worm,” the previous story in the series, this story works quite well by itself.

"," by (edited by Jason Sizemore), appeared in issue 93, published on .

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

Pro: Superficially, the plot is simply Brit getting her kids to perform a skit that’ll showcase the Tai Chi she’s taught them. Ironically, the zombies in the skit mirror the entities up the hill.

On another level, it’s about Brit trying to avoid dealing with those entities, but ultimately rising to the challenge, facing them, and defeating them.

The entities’ plans for Brit are uncomfortably similar to what she imagines her parents’ plans for her might be. Let her out once to find a mate, then retire her to a life narrowly focused on family. She’s smothered by both (literally, in the case of the royal jelly), and she doesn’t intend to be defeated by either one.

Just before the play, when she overhears her mother saying "We're proud of how different she's been," we (and she) realize that she’s won that battle too. All the threads come together nicely.

Brit’s account of how she rebels against her parents by speaking African American Vernacular English (aka “Ebonics”) is an interesting side story. She resents being “complimented” on her command of standard English, and yet she doesn’t allow her young charges to speak AAVE, which suggests her feelings about it are very complicated.

It’s amusing that Brit is reading “Return to Neverÿon,” by Samuel L. Delaney, since the author was co-editor on an anthology of stories inspired by Delaney.

Con: She defeats the bee-like entities by using a power we didn’t know she had up to that point.

We really don’t learn enough about these entities, and that makes for a bit of confusion. Nothing is done with the suicide angle, so that feels like a miss.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 93)
Nisi Shawl Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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