As sometimes happens, when I stumbled across one cool story this time, I found two. The November and December issues of Apex Magazine feature two lovely, shattering, haunting stories about two sets of sisters by two of my favorite up-and-coming spec fic writers: Aliette de Bodard and Rochita Loenen-Ruiz.
In Ms. de Bodard’s story, “After the Fire,” a survivor of a global holocaust awakes from a nightmare-filled hibernation to discover her sister, and another nightmare, awaiting her. Set in an alternate universe where the Chinese Empire never fell, the story weaves ancient Chinese traditions into a high-tech future, and wrestles with timeless themes of guilt and atonement.
In “59 Beads,” Ms. Loenen-Ruiz tells the heartbreaking tale of an orphaned girl living on the streets of future Cordoba who must pay a terrible price to save the life of her younger sister. Loenen-Ruiz paints a stark picture of a future world where the lines between rich and poor are clearer and more insurmountable than ever, and acts of self-sacrifice are not always rewarded as we would expect. UPDATE – 8 July 2010: This story received an Honorable Mention in Gardner Dozois’ Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 27.
These are two outstanding works of short speculative fiction, but if you’re prone to midwinter depression, you might want to save them for a sunny day. Do read them.
The image above comes from eurekastreet.com.au, and accompanies a nice non-fiction piece about sisters by Prue Gibson. Also worth a read.