"no, working with the WRONG people is how you get caught"
September 14, 2020 5:19 AM   Subscribe

Four gripping, provocative, sometimes uncomfortable scifi/fantasy stories about violence and sacrifice in defense of communities and ideals. Three by Margaret Killjoy (previously) and one by Elizabeth Crowe.

"The Pride of Salinkari" by Elizabeth Crowe (audio), published this April, about an ethics teacher in a society that ritualizes suicide (so, please note the content warning at the top of the page):
His mother came to me at the end of an ethics lecture. I had just sent my students away and was gathering the last of my things when she stepped into the door frame and blocked it, deliberately.
"Men of the Ashen Morrow" by Margaret Killjoy (audio), a moody fantasy about wishing you could put down a dangerous responsibility:
Ten summers prior, as a young woman, Sal had performed the ritual. Hulokk had come, she’d spoken with Him, and He’d departed with nothing more than the buck they’d slaughtered. It had been the first time in living memory that the summoners had convinced the god to spare them all. Sal was counting on that luck. She was counting on her own strength......

“I’ve come directly from the great assembly,” he said. “The summer is in its fifth moon and no one has come forward to summon its end. I’ve been empowered to ask you, on behalf of the whole of Laria, to do this. Summon the god Hulokk.”

Sal spat, off to the side. “The reason’s no one’s come forward is because everyone’s hoping we’ll do it.”

“Will you?”


“Why not?”

“Someone else’s turn.”
"Everything that Isn’t Winter", also by Margaret Killjoy, a lyrical story about armed defense of a peaceful commune, and about a hard-bitten narrator afraid there's no place for them in the home they defend:
It took fifty of us to cut a firebreak to keep the blaze from spreading, tearing into tea plants with machetes while the fire tore into our livelihood. The band played, because what else can you do....

“If I was going to raid us, I’d have camped up this hill,” Bartley said. “There’s a spring up there, one you can drink from, and a few open cliff faces that’d let you spy on us.”

“Why do you think they did it?” I asked.

Bartley shrugged. “People don’t like it when other people have nice things.”

The In-Between Lodge was nice, there was no denying that. We were a collective of fifty-five adults, forty children, and another sixteen people halfway between the two categories. We’d raised up the lodge ten years back, just as the new world settled into place and drew its political borders, just as I’d left my teenaged years. We grew tea and we played our part in the new world’s mutual aid network of a few interdependent city-states, communes, and hamlets. We sold, gave, or traded provisions to people passing through the old railway tunnel, and we guarded Stampede Pass, the eastern edge of the new world.
And another Margaret Killjoy piece, "The Fortunate Death of Jonathan Sandelson" (audio), a ten-minutes-into-the-future cyberthriller:
I was just trying to boxtroll that asshole into quitting, like I’d gotten the two guys before him to do. I swear I wasn’t trying to get him all dead and shit. It wasn’t my box that did it. But I guess all drone-related crimes fall under federal jurisdiction, and when a civvie octocopter box put a bullet in Jonathan Sandelson’s front left tire and sent him careening into the ocean and the afterlife, the feds assumed it was me. Well, they assumed it was my handle, Jeje Cameron. They probably hadn’t made the connection between Jeje and real-world me, Jae Diana Diaz. Not yet.
posted by brainwane (7 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
I'm going to read these today but I just want to say I'm so happy folks have been posting stories - I never remember to look for them so it's an intriguing surprise every time!
posted by brilliantine at 5:22 AM on September 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

brilliantine, in case you want to increase how much short free-to-read-online science fiction and fantasy you get reminded to read:

I subscribe to the syndication feeds of a few online magazines via Dreamwidth (my Atom/RSS/feed reader -- you can get an account for free) and that helps me see some stuff. If an online magazine has a syndication feed then you can follow it via https://dreamwidth.org/feeds and then it'll show up on your Reading Page. Feeds for several good short sf/f publishers:

Fireside Magazine (DW, site)
Strange Horizons (DW, site)
Lightspeed (DW, site)
Clarkesworld (DW, site)
Tor.com, including fiction and nonfiction (DW, site)
Mithila Review (some speculative fiction, some not) (DW, site)
Jaggery (some speculative fiction, some not) (DW, site)
Luna Station Quarterly (DW, site)
Apex Magazine (site)
Beneath Ceaseless Skies (site)
Uncanny Magazine (site)

And I recommend you consider checking out/subscribing to PodCastle (site) and its sibling sites as well.

Probably more of the SFWA qualifying markets have syndication feeds you can find and subscribe to.

And I subscribe to the mailing list for Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination so I get a heads-up when there's a new Future Tense story on Slate, like "Legal Salvage" by Holli Mintzer.
posted by brainwane at 5:51 AM on September 14, 2020 [13 favorites]

I’ve been reading SF stories in my spare time instead of Twitter, election news, and Reddit. It’s entirely thanks to you! Thanks for all the great stuff you’ve been posting lately.
posted by lostburner at 11:45 AM on September 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

You all need to stop with the lists of four or five fantastic short stories. It's absolutely murdering any sense of productivity around here.
Bloody cabal, providing me with the best of my favourite form of writing all the time.
posted by Kreiger at 12:13 PM on September 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

I want to second brillaintine, I'm really enjoying these short story posts!

Men of the Ashen Morrow was so good, but I'm totally on board with Sal's initial reaction. The responsibility SHOULD be shared dammit.
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:37 AM on September 15, 2020

stillnocturnal, I totally vibe with you here. Yeah. It should!!! But what do we do if no one else is stepping up?

One thing I appreciate so much about Killjoy's work is the attention to what happens in groups when emergent or explicit norms around what should happen, and the emerging reality of what is happening, collide. Both "Everything That Isn't Winter" and "Men of the Ashen Morrow" -- and Killjoy's book The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion -- are closely observed stories about violence, loyalty, vulnerability, sacrifice, and the ways we try to influence each other when we don't have traditional capitalist/bureaucratic hierarchies to bring to bear.

In "Men of the Ashen Morrow", and in The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion: What does it feel like and what happens, within each of us and among us, when our inability to persuade others to take urgent collective action collides with the heartfelt desire to avoid dominating others?

Also: in "Everything That Isn't Winter", our point-of-view character is a resident and guard of an egalitarian commune, itchy and melancholy about their own too-well-developed capacity for and comfort with violence. I found it refreshing to see the competence demonstrations, loyalty, sacrifice, tradecraft, and suspense I'd usually see in military SF deployed in a story about the defense of an egalitarian collective in the woods.

I'd also like to hear what people thought of "The Pride of Salinkari" -- which I didn't even want to link to above the fold on this post because the core premise might be so upsetting to people. But it really stuck with me, the protagonist's mounting dismay and frustration with the hypocrisy of how they were being treated, and the philosophical stance around autonomy.
posted by brainwane at 4:46 AM on September 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Pride of Salinkari mainly just reminded me of my bone-weariness with current events - people in power getting what they want even when it's completely unfair and unjustified, that feeling of dealing with people who are so full of their own entitlement that nothing else gets through, people disregarding logic and orderly thinking when they're arguing.
posted by brilliantine at 8:17 AM on September 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

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