Recent shorts: Mondal, Nuallak, Khaw, Moreno-Garcia

I find you under my bed one night when I am looking for a lost suitcase, curled up and desolate as if you were just a dead tree. You shrink from my reach. I have no idea how long you have been there. I wonder if you can tell.
I stopped dreading you when I was ten. Ten years it took me to get over the unseen monster under the bed who kept me from getting out after lights-off. I wonder what you wanted then; what you want now. I wonder what you eat. I wonder if you will eat me.

But you only want to be.

‘Things to Do after They’re Gone’ by Mimi Mondal (Daily SF, 2015). A magic realist flash: a queer narrator, with a touch of the coming-out arc but not dominated by it. Wistful, lingering, and empathetic.

You sit and are lectured on a self Othered through others’ eyes. Except for one Thai man, the lecturer cites theorists and academics like her, white and Western.

She says, “There are no feminists in Thailand—Thai women don’t really identify as feminists. It’s just not done. People talk about Southeast Asian women having power and ownership, but…” she shrugs.

(It’s never occurred to the lecturer to ask what a Thai woman thinks of herself, let alone a krasue’s view of her own condition.)

‘She Shines Like a Moon’ by Pear Nuallak (Lackington’s, 2015). Easily my favorite of my most recent reads: it is effortlessly political and beautifully told, efficiently making use of the krasue’s immortality as metaphor for diaspora, her place in London defined by solitude and alienation until she finds fellowship with a local witch (there’s a hint of queerness there too, of course). It’s also in second person, which as we know is my absolute favorite POV.

‘To See Pedro Infante’ by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (2014). This is more realist than the previous two, short and elegantly told while being complex on the intersection of class, performativity, and gender. Like much of Silvia’s fiction, it is set in Mexico – and like all insider narratives, the Mexico of this brief but multi-faceted story is absolutely not exotified but rather treated as completely normal: a real place rather than a Hollywood backdrop. It’s entirely mundane, about a fairly mundane woman with an unusual gift but whose concerns are entirely grounded in the every day, the pragmatic. I’m happy for this kind of literary focus. Despite the sparseness of the story (there’s almost no dialogue), this is a more realistic story than many.

I do wish it was a bit less heteronormative (which I also felt with Signal to Noise), but that’s a small aside and not a quibble everyone will share. The story is a reprint, originally published in Love and Other Poisons.

She wore her mother’s bones to the ball.

“You’re getting fat,” hissed the bejeweled skull on her hip.

She hushed her mother. It wasn’t the best arrangement. She had wanted a demure gown, green as limes, not the pale jade silks that foamed over her legs. The electric blues of her kingfisher mask were appealing, true, but they lacked the gravity of a hawk’s cruel smirk. And the slippers? Banana-gold slippers left much to be desired for.

‘Her Pound of Flesh’ by Cassandra Khaw (Mythic Delirium, 2015). This mixes the familiar elements of ‘The Little Mermaid’, Cinderella, and ‘Sleeping Beauty’ then recasts them into something else entirely – and what it is is very rich, pretty, and focused entirely on women: their pettiness, monstrosity, fury, power whether they are immortal witch or mortal peasant-to-princess.