Strange Horizons, 15 August 2005

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"Red Sky" by Celia Marsh
"Rabbit" by Jenn Reese

Stripped down to its simplest form, "Red Sky" by Celia Marsh is the story of a woman’s choice between her ambitions and her love, as well as what happens after that choice is made.  

Mare is in line to become an astronaut, but her chances with NASA aren’t good, because too many people are ahead of her.  She gets the opportunity to be a part of China’s space program, which requires her to spend years on an international space station, and this necessitates leaving Jack, her boyfriend, behind.

Mare comes to feel more at home on the space station and is offered a chance to stay there forever, which forces her to decide between love and career.

This story’s speculative elements are slight, but the story has the feeling of science fiction, mostly due to Mare’s profession.  I especially enjoyed seeing Mare’s love of her job.  Too many times, women who love their work are portrayed as emotionally stunted, but Mare is invigorated by life on the space station.

Marsh’s prose is delightfully transparent, allowing the story to come through without too much showy description.  The story itself is fairly simple, and Marsh uses a fractured structure to add tension.  The first section of the story is out of sequence.  That distracted me because I was confused about where it fell in the story’s timeline.  Only on a second read through was it apparent what had happened.  

All in all, I enjoyed the story, but a little of the punch of the climax was lost to the fractured structure.

"Rabbit" is number eight in Jenn Reese‘s Tales of the Chinese Zodiac.  In the Year of the Rabbit, Peisun sets out to draw her heart’s desire on a stack of rice paper.  Through several failures, she is forced to delve deeper and deeper into her heart.

"Rabbit" is beautifully told.  I found the experience of reading it more like reading the Imagist poems of William Carlos Williams or Ezra Pound, where every word is chosen expressly for its imagery.  

"Rabbit" is satisfying and complete, both difficult achievements at such a short length.