Blogging Brilliant Stories: “Karina Who Kissed Spacetime,” by Indrapramit Das, and “The Water That Falls on You From Nowhere,” by John Chu
First of all, I owe this blog post to Brit Mandelo, whose recent Tor.com Short Fiction Spotlight hit my RSS reader with perfect timing, considering that my New Year’s Resolution was to READ MORE SHORT STORIES!! Which comes with a corollary commitment: to TALK about the stories I read, especially when they’re amazing, and to do that on my blog as a way to shout out awesome shit as well as force myself to put into words what works for me in great stories, which often make sense on an emotional level but not always on a verbal one. I tore right into Brit’s suggestions, and my life was much enriched.
So, borrowing Brit’s thunder, I’ll do two stories here, instead of my usual one, and hope that’ll kickstart my “Blogging Brilliant Stories” for 2014.
In 2012 I read and loved Indrapramit Das’s “Weep For Day,” in Asimov’s, so my eye is always out for more stuff from him (also, he’s a Clarion West grad, so we are telepathically linked through the Greater Clarion Collective Hive Mind). When Brit hyped Karina Who Kissed Spacetime (originally in Apex) I checked it out right away. It’s a beautifully imaged, richly felt flash of feeling and scene, capturing the adolescent head-rush joy-agony of first love so marvelously that it almost feels like the speculative element (the protagonist’s first love is capable of shattering the spacetime continuum and sending him dancing through time) might just as well be an expression of a young person’s euphoric hyperbolic way of seeing the world and experiencing emotion. That’s what I think great spec-fic should do: use ridiculous lies to dramatize and underscore something fundamentally true about the human condition; in this case, the worldbending intensity of teen love.
John Chu’s “The Water That Falls on You From Nowhere” is a near-perfect SFF story, using a totally fresh and wacky SF conceit (one day the laws of physics change and ice-cold water falls on you from nowhere when you tell a lie; also, attempts to game the system and equivocate may result in permanent insanity) to explore and illuminate the relationship between two boyfriends as one of them grapples with whether & how to come out to his parents. Phenomenal set-up of both the “magic” system and the characters; I was totally crushed out on the boyfriend. Then we travel home for the holidays, as the main character resolves to finally tell his parents what’s up. There’s a level on which its protagonist’s family drama, struggling to come out to his parents even as his sister is constantly blocking them from being alone with them, becomes a little comedy-of-errors, but I’m not sure that’s a demerit. I think it speaks to the strength of the story that it can so robustly deploy all the complex ramifications of a new and exciting speculative concept and then move on to use it to explore some fascinatingly real interpersonal dynamics. So even if the family nuance elements didn’t always work for me personally as well as the relationship between the narrator and his boyfriend, they do work. I suspect that, as someone who is IN an intercultural gay marriage, those moments of family tension and terror and magic and wonderfulness might in fact have worked too well for me.
A final note on “The Water That Falls on You From Nowhere” – sometimes you see the ending coming, and it ruins the story. BUT sometimes you hope the story will end a certain way, and when it does it’s a wonderful thing. That’s what happened with this one. I won’t spoil it, but there was a point 3/4 of the way through where I thought “ooooooh it would be so awesome if THIS THING happened,” and THAT THING happened, really nicely.
So, here’s to excellent stories, and reading more of them in 2014, and talking about them, and blogging about them. And oh yeah writing them too maybe.
Posted on: January 14, 2014, by : Sam J. M.
File under: Blogging Brilliant Stories