Monday, March 30, 2020

Song of the Water Bear, by Laine Bell

★★★☆☆ Honorable Mention

(Alien SF) Cel takes leadership of her aquatic people just as they’re attacked by amorphous creatures that seem immune to all forms of attack. (3,444 words; Time: 11m)

"," by (edited by Scott H. Andrews), appeared in issue 299, published on .

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

Review: 2020.163 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: This is almost a military SF story of a very unusual kind, but it’s the tale of how Cel’s people were driven off by the shapeless ones and how she rallied them to go back and fight again. It’s also the tale of how Cel became a true leader.

This is a remarkable “imaginary toads in imaginary gardens” story that actually works; conventional wisdom has it that you can have real toads in imaginary gardens (e.g. a relatable human being in an alien world) or imaginary toads in real gardens (e.g. an alien visits the earth) but that imaginary toads in imaginary gardens makes it hard for the reader to relate.

In the course of the story, for some reason I found myself imagining that all the characters were very tiny (as in James Blish’s “Surface Tension”) probably because I kept thinking the lifefrond was a bit of seaweed.

Con: The shapeless ones seemed so invincible in the first part that I was surprised they were so easily defeated in the second part.

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3 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. Aren't all the characters tiny, though? The description of the water bears seemed a lot like tardigrades to me, and the attackers read like amoebas (who actually do prey on tardigrades).

    1. I figured they were inspired by microscopic life, but I ultimately felt they weren't supposed to actually be that. Do tardigrades live underwater?

    2. They do live in water - they actually are called "water bears" among other things. I did feel that the story was about microscopic life, although I interpreted "lifefrond" more literally than you did, assuming it to be seaweed.