Friday, June 23, 2017

The White-Throated Transmigrant, by E. Lily Yu

[Tor.com]
★★★☆☆ Honorable Mention

(Dark Fantasy) Hiding from her own problems, Winona volunteers at the local ornithological museum after she hits a bird with her car. (3,555 words; Time: 11m)

Recommended By: RHorton+1


"," by (edited by Marco Palmieri), published on by .

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

Review: 2017.497 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: The details of taxidermy are interesting, if a little grisly. The bits of information about Winona that gradually dribble out are also interesting. She’s ethnic Chinese, no family, no friends. She had an abortion. She’s lonely, unhappy with her life, and sees no future for herself.

Students of "show don't tell" should read this and marvel at how the author conveys this without ever saying she's lonely, unhappy alienated, etc. It's a brilliant illustration of how an author can show the reader a vast amount about a character without ever having to say it outright.

In the end, when she replaces the bird she killed, we know she's glad to put our world behind her.

Con: It’s not clear what the crystals represent, and it's hard to believe she never brought one in to the museum for someone to look at. Clearly they're about something hatching, but what, and why so many?

The speculative element has little effect on the story and could easily be removed from it.

Penny goes from sympathetic to hostile without a lot happening to make that easy to believe.

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5 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. The crystals seem like a cross between egg and chrysalis. Rebirth and transformation. The number corresponds to how many days she spends at the museum.

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  2. The story is brilliant in that it shows the reader how unhappy, alienated and lonely she is. I think Winona was also depressed - that is how I read it.

    I think Penny's reaction to what happened at the bar to Winona was a very realistic example of gas-lighting. Certainly Penny is very dismissive of it. I am putting Penny's sudden hostile reaction to Winona down to not being able to face the reality about her home town.

    I do agree that there was too much detail about the taxidermy process, and not enough about HOW it ended the way it did.

    I am willing to agree that the WHY is to replace the bird, as you say in your review, but where did the magic come from and why?

    It is a good 3 and the artwork is lovely. Suits the story.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, I loved the art for this one too.

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  3. This is almost a 4 for me, but the genre fantasy is very slight, and it is the weakest part of the story as well.

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    Replies
    1. This is another one that should be an honorable mention though.

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