Friday, March 13, 2020

Rat and Finch Are Friends, by Innocent Chizaram Ilo

[Strange Horizons]

(Modern Fantasy) When he’s caught kissing another boy, one of Izuchukwu’s two big secrets comes out. But if they find out he can turn into a bird and fly, he’ll be in real trouble. (4,385 words; Time: 14m)

"," by (edited by Vanessa Rose Phin), appeared in issue 03/02/20, published on .

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

Review: 2020.140 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: Izu and Okwu are in the closet both about being gay and about being amusus. In this story, it’s the shapeshifting that seems to bother people the most.

The story starts with Izu already in trouble, so the bulk of it is about letting us know what happened that led to his predicament. By the end, we understand why his dad clips his wings, even though it’s rather sad. (To a degree, this may be meant to symbolize the way kids have to give up the magic of childhood as they get older.)

Yet it has a happy ending of sorts; Izu and Okwu still find ways to be together, even if they’re not all they were before.

Izuchukwu means “God’s Plan” in Igbo and Okwudili means “Let God be the judge.” Amusu means “witch.”

Con: In reality, Nigeria is an awful place to be gay, where the law prescribes death and the people mostly support that. Izu and Okwu get off easy, considering where they live.

The biggest problem with this story is that Izu is too passive to be a satisfying protagonist. He’s not going after any particular goal; he just goes where events take him.

A minor point is that clipping a bird’s wings is temporary; the bird can fly again as soon as it molts. In the story, though, it seems the change was permanent.

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