“Water, Floor, Leaves” by Katrina S. Forest
Reviewed By Herbert M. Shaw
This month’s Crossed Genres followed the theme of fantastical competitive sports. Whether readers are fans of the Ninja Warrior Challenge or Final Fantasy X’s Blitzball, this issue showed some wild ideas when it came to competition and teamwork.
“Water, Floor, Leaves” by Katrina S. Forest
One of the more interesting stories published by CG. Within the story of a fantasy-style sport, a character with a unique attribute leads the stage on a journey of teamwork and personal development.
April competes in the DiBall Intermediate League. In DiBall, players use their powers to manipulate the elements in order to move the ball to the goal net. April’s power is over water, so she always has her “bring-in jar” to carry her instrument for success. In “Water, Floor, Leaves” April reluctantly agrees to participate in the doubles tournament and gets allied with Travis, another young athlete whose power controls leaves. However, the hook of this story is in the main character herself and how she communicates with her teammate.
April is deaf. That is why she never competes in the doubles events, because she would have a difficult time talking to her teammate about strategies. Luckily for her, Travis knows sign language, which makes their unlikely link all the more interesting for the purposes of the story.
The title refers to a strategy April and Travis come up with to combat a team of barrier maker-breakers in order to control the flow of the ball. Using signs to communicate the flow of the ball using the leaves and the water, they form an alliance that April gradually accepts and begins to appreciate. Her development as a highly competitive character who at first sees her condition as a social detriment grows through a single game with a partner into a less withdrawn player whose narration becomes more positive as the unsure outcome of the game draws closer.
Crossed Genres suggests for its submissions that “flawed” characters be a focal point of their stories. Making April deaf and having to work with the only other player in the league who knows sign language makes for a most interesting take not only on teamwork but also on personal development in having to trust a complete stranger. Author Katrina Forest told CG she had “a lot to learn” as a hearing person writing a story with a main character who is deaf. She pulls off the story with gusto and creates a truly original take on a futuristic SF event that is what CG claims to be all about.
“1st Annual Lunar Biathlon” by Rachel K. Jones
This month’s only competitive sport definitively set in space. The setting and circumstances of this sport meet the needs for two adventurous newlyweds whose exploration goes from standard amusement to a race where the rules clearly state it is truly life or death.
Valanna narrates the story of her next exhilirating adventure with husband and devout Muslim Raji.
“What idiot scheduled this thing during Ramadan, anyway?”
“Probably the same ones who don’t check the calendar when their husband is Muslim?”
They sound pretty married, don’t you think?
For their own purposes, Valanna and Raji decide to run this month-long race around the Moon’s 6,874-mile circumnavigational path. Valanna feels a zest for life after surviving a terrible accident that makes her grateful for every day. Raji himself is no angel, but follows the customs of his culture out of the same respect one might afford their spouse.
As they progress through the race, Valanna’s perspective of past action and present intention are weighed equally as she pushes Raji to continue. In her past, she sees video footage of her idol Latoya Barton running the exact path she and Raji are on, creating the sport whose premier event they are now participating in.
To a seasoned extreme sports fanatic, this event might seem to be the evolution of courses such as are used in mud or other obstacle races, all the rage in our present as Spartan Race or Tough Mudder (honorable mention: Down & Dirty). Now picture all the fun of that with overnight breaks and stakes that couldn’t be higher. All of it taking place on a celestial body whose atmosphere allows for the obstacles to be impossibly difficult to maneuver. And yet they are risky enough to risk due (among other things) to the reduced inertia that comes with the territory of lower gravity. That’s the lunar biathalon.
Author Jones creates a wonderful marriage ( 😉 ) between partnership and devotion whether it is to your passion or to your spouse. She creates an exhilarating quest that keeps the audience on its toes and leads up to a satisfying Hollywood conclusion.
“One for the Team” by MCM
The last story featured in Crossed Genres‘ “Sport” issue details a different concern in major league sports. When and how as well as can or should the rules be circumnavigated in order to win?
Join a co-ed team in their quest for glory playing Popball—a quidditch-esque game where players earn points for capturing small yellow orbs called doxies. Points are also acquired through a double penalty system where certain teams can lose and gain points through certain violations of the rules. In place of broomsticks, the teams of three have thick sticks called punts, which seem to serve little purpose in the obtaining of doxies while in play.
MCM’s juvenile story of a mischievous trick to take back a game exposes something that many sports stories and fictitious media fail to address: the mind of the gamer. When a flaw in the rules is exposed, the team practically goes into a frenzy in order to exploit it, keeping one of their own in reserve should the need arise.
The perspectives of supporting characters such as the coach and sports commentators go beyond the standard background noise that other fantasy sports tend to generate. The characters all successfully branch out of two-dimensionality with an empathy for each other and the game in which they are engaged. The diplomatic repercussions of such an advantage of order is simply discussed in passing as the realities of the present cost are made painfully aware to the reader.
Another unique aspect of a competitive sport—a team sport involving physical contact where teams are co-ed. There are many curious aspects to this dubious scenario, but the characters and their dialogue keep the story going at a good pace until its ultimate lesson is dutifully taught.