Lone Star Stories, No. 21, June 1, 2007

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"Tradition" by Jo Walton
"Things with the Same Name" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
In "Eating Their Sins and Ours" by Jay Lake, the unnamed narrator has been captured by aliens, a result of her own carelessness.  Now, she’s having to wrestle with near-starvation, thirst, and her own regrets.  She also has to find a way to understand her alien captors—and their strange request. 
The story starts out as almost clichéd science fiction—the enemy ships are attacking, the ship’s systems are down, the crew is in mortal danger—but it doesn’t stay there long.  As the narrator struggles to understand her captors with their unusual syntax, we get a glimpse into two vastly different cultures and the one thing that can bring them together: the sin-eater. 
"Eating Their Sins and Ours" blends science fiction, linguistics, and Southern religion into a delightfully strange melee of a story.  Underlying themes of repentance and atonement support the story’s structure without being glaring or pedantic. 
"Tradition" by Jo Walton is a short but sweet story about a colony in the stars and the odd customs that go along with life on a different planet—one custom in particular.  There’s not much of a plot to the story, and I found the cutesy voice a bit irritating, but it’s short enough to sustain itself in spite of both these problems. 
In Nina Kiriki Hoffman‘s "Things with the Same Name," Charlie gets into a fight with his mother—again—and winds up wandering along the road in a snowstorm.  A woman offers him a ride, but promptly kicks him out of her car when he tells her his name. 
It’s hard to say more about the plot without giving away the storyline, but "Things with the Same Name" is unusual, startling, heartwarming, and full of unexpected twists.  The author delicately probes questions of existence and motives, while you find yourself carried along by the rich characterization and a story that has you reading just to find out what happens next.  Who are we really?  Who do we want to be?  And is it ever too late to change?  From its startling first sentence to its rich and moving climax, the story delivers answers to those questions.  Well worth the read!