Sunday, November 4, 2018

De MotherJumpers, by Celeste Rita Baker

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[Strange Horizons]
★★★☆☆ Mixed

(Alternate History Fantasy) Long ago, some people leapt from a slave ship, and something transformed their bodies so she they could breathe water. Today, her descendants try to cope with a changing ocean. (9,146 words; Time: 30m)

A note on the dialect: This story is written in the Caribbean dialect, which is related but not identical to African-American Vernacular English. Here are some tips to make it easier to read:
  • First, read in the morning when you’re fresh. It’s harder to read an unfamiliar language/dialect when you’re tired.
  • Second, if you find yourself getting tired, stop. Put it aside until later—or until the next day. Your brain will often improve its ability to read it while you sleep.
  • Third, stick with it. It may take a few tries to get the hang of it.

"," by (edited by Jane Crowley and Kate Dollarhyde), appeared in issue 10/15/18, published on .

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

Review: 2018.559 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: The story deals with very difficult themes like rape and death, grief and guilt, but also loss of community and even climate change. I think there’s also a message here of how there comes a time to realize that your place of safety isn’t safe anymore and that it’s time to rejoin the world, but I’m not sure I can quite articulate it.

Beyond that, the story does a great job of showing Junpee’s world through her eyes. It was interesting to learn that although her people can survive just with their gills, they need atmospheric oxygen to operate at full capacity, and that first breath in the morning is critical. I particularly liked the scene where they discussed possible uses for plastic six-pack rings, all without ever knowing what those rings are made for. This discussion is important because the tension between those who want to use the strange new things and those who shun them is a big part of what divides the community later.

Up until the tragedy of her losing most of her friends in the attack by the crazed manatee, the story is almost entirely concerned with describing her world (other than the scene where she shows Amilo what a clitoris is), but after that, it gets deadly serious. Most of her friends die. The community blames her, so she loses their support, and she gets raped and beaten by people she had trusted.

The ending shows that she’s strong and she’s recovering. She’s going back to her safe place, she and Amilo will make a home on land despite what everyone thinks, she’ll have his child, and they’ll make use of new things, like the green plastic vessel she’ll use to catch the rain.

Con: Obviously the dialect will make this story inaccessible to many readers, perhaps most.

Beyond that, the story takes way too long to get started, and then it ends with too much unresolved.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 10/15/18)
Celeste Rita Baker Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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