Strange Horizons, 14-21 November 2005

Note: This post was imported from an old content-management system, so please excuse any inconsistencies in formatting.
"Bearing Witness" by Marguerite Reed
"Horse" by Jenn Reese
Sometimes, reviewers can throw terms like "powerful story" around a little too often.  Not that anyone is being dishonest, but it can take away from the impact when a story really is powerful.  However, "Bearing Witness" by Marguerite Reed is a powerful story.  It deals with the sensitive issues surrounding pregnancy and motherhood.

Yamilah Reis is studying the effects of zero gravity on developing pig embryos while serving on an internationally funded space station.  About nine weeks into her stint on the ISS, she discovers she’s pregnant and that her shipmates and NASA not only knew before she began her mission, but deliberately kept it from her.  Her unborn child is just as much an experiment as the pig embryos. 
The most important issue in this story is not the legal or moral ramifications of abortion.  It is not defining the exact moment that life begins.  It is not the division of a woman’s time between family and career.  The real question in this story is who is better suited to determine the fate of a developing fetus: the mother or the government.  It’s a complicated question that Reed navigates with extreme care. 

From time to time, the message becomes heavy-handed when Yamilah’s male shipmates try to justify their participation in the experiment, and then later when they attempt to persuade her to return to the station.  In the story’s context, it is almost unavoidable.  Reed has presented a situation that cannot be answered with a quick glance at the party line.   She exhibits a deft touch that provokes the reader to think about the issue outside the constraints of partisan politics. 

This might not end up as my favorite story this year, but it will be one of the stories that I continue to think about and recommend to others.

"Horse" by Jenn Reese is the eleventh of twelve installments in her Tales of the Chinese Zodiac flash fiction series.  It is a charming story that I enjoyed quite a bit until the very end.  I wondered how the extended family would overcome the inconsistencies in the passage of time between Anshi’s home and the forest village.  Other than that, it’s a delightful piece with a perfect tang of magic.