Strange Horizons, 30 May 2005

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"She Called Me Baby" by Vylar Kaftan

"She Called Me Baby" by Vylar Kaftan is a lesson in not judging a story by its tense.  I dislike short stories written in present tense.  It’s hard to write and almost as hard to read because my brain keeps trying to convert everything to the more familiar past tense.  So, when I started the first sentence, I groaned, but kept going.  After the first paragraph, Kaftan’s confident prose had me hooked.

The main character, Baby, is the only child, and clone, of famous model and artist Maria-Danae.  Baby’s real name is the same as her mother’s and she has struggled since adolescence to create a separate identity from her mother.  As the story opens, Maria-Danae is dying and Baby’s agent urges her to visit her mother one last time.

Tantalizing bits of Baby and Maria-Danae’s history together, as well as their remarkable careers apart, are doled out at perfect intervals to entice the reader on.  Excerpts from Baby’s best-selling memoir lay out her side of the story, but Maria-Danae’s feelings are kept to the very end.  More tension than I would have thought possible is built as Baby gets closer and closer to actually seeing her mother again.

Kaftan illustrates the inherent conflicts in a mother-daughter relationship.  To some extent, all daughters become their mothers.  All fight to make their legacy their own.  Kaftan captures the essence of Maria-Danae and Baby’s complicated relationship.  She crafts it into a universal story that transcends her characters.  “She Called Me Baby” is an excellent story that I highly recommend checking out.