Strange Horizons, August 7, 2017

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Strange Horizons, August 7, 2017

“These Constellations Will Be Yours” by Elaine Cuyegkeng

Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf

“These Constellations Will Be Yours” by Elaine Cuyegkeng deals with an empire which rules over several star systems. One of the planets which it controls has certain individuals who can foresee multiple futures. Those with this talent are surgically joined to the empire’s starships, unless their families can pay a high fee. The narrator is one of these oracles, who control the ships and enable them to travel faster than light. She encounters a dancer whose family has paid for her freedom, and sees her possible fates. The dancer performs a politically controversial ballet, leading to great consequences for herself, her fellow oracles, and the empire.

Written in a lush style with vivid sensory detail, this is a powerful tale full of both beauty and cruelty. The empire it depicts is similar in many ways to that of Spain in the days of colonialism. (The author was born in the Philippines, and no doubt the history of her native land had a strong influence on the story.) Many Spanish terms are used. The ruler of the empire is the Infanta, the natives of the colony planet are called Indios, and those of mixed blood are known as mestizos. This gives the story an unusual, exotic flavor, while reminding the reader of the dark side of the past.

Victoria Silverwolf has some Spanish and Native American blood and might be called a mestiza.