Apex Magazine #48, May 2013
“Ilse, Who Saw Clearly” by E. Lily Yu
“The Binding of Ming-tian” by Emily Jiang
Reviewed by Dave Truesdale
E. lily Yu’s “Ilse, Who Saw Clearly” is the story of Ilse, a young girl who travels out of her cold, mountainous German kingdom in order to seek redress for what a traveling magician/physician has inadvertantly done to her village (stolen their eyes, but not hers). Her travels lead her to see a bit more of the wider world, to learn of strange and wondrous places, which leads her to metaphorically see that there is more to life than what the limits of her village have shown her. A delicately wrought reimagining of a worthwhile theme told as a fairytale.
Emily Jiang’s lovely poetic prose in “The Binding of Ming-tian” is counterpoint to the suffering and sorrow of several of the characters, who each seem to desire something out of the reach of their social class, or who are perhaps bound by social custom. Somehow, however, they achieve that which they seek, but the voice of the piece remains unmoved, or maybe distanced is the more accurate word, negating any feeling of real achievement or excitement for those who have striven so hard to gain their dreams. While I enjoyed the piece, I found no SF or F element present. There is nothing that would prevent it from taking place in the here and now. It follows the dreams of a master musician and his apprentice, and Ming-tian of the title who wishes to dance even though her feet are being broken and bound for another purpose, with naught to suggest anything outré or otherwise indicating it belongs to genre. A nice read, but just not genre — at least not to this heathen gatekeeper.
Dave Truesdale has edited Tangent and now Tangent Online since 1993. It has been nominated for the Hugo Award four times, and the World Fantasy Award once. A former editor of the Bulletin of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, he also served as a World Fantasy Award judge in 1998, and for several years wrote an original online column for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Now retired, he keeps close company with his SF/F library, the coffeepot, and old movie channels on TV.