Strange Horizons, October 20 & 27, 2014

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Strange Horizons, October 20 and 27, 2014

Dream Cakes” by Kelly Jennings (10/20/14)

Because I Prayed This Word” by Alex Dally MacFarlane (10/27/14)

Reviewed by Louis West

In “Dream Cakes,” by Kelly Jennings, Ella runs Crispin’s Bakery on a space station. She has an innate talent. She can make dream cakes that allow her to change reality to match the dreams of those who eat the cake. Forbidden, of course, but the desperate come anyway, wanting what they don’t have but inevitably failing to change to be worthy of their new reality. A recently demoted Corporal comes, demands, Ella eventually accedes. Things change. He’s a Captain now, married, with a kid on the way. Happy? Mostly bemused. Ella samples a crumb of the cake he left and sees his future—better than most—then drains the cash card he left behind from his old identity.

Flash fiction at its best. Definitely recommended.

Because I Prayed This Word,” by Alex Dally MacFarlane, is a love story of, by and for women. Throughout history women have been diminished by men who viewed them as property, housekeepers, and baby makers but not intellectual equals. While this attitude has varied by culture, women have still had to fight extra hard to carve a place where their talent was recognized by all. Several such are Psáppho (Sappho), the 6th century BC Greek lyric poet from the island of Lesbos, Hamda Bint Ziyad Al Muaddib, a 12th century Andalucian poet, and Wallada bint al-Mustakfi, an 11th century Andalucian poet. Feminists, fighting for equal rights, they wrote and sang about many things, but extensively about love between women, the only love available for most which embraced mutual respect.

This tale follows the journey of a Middle Ages monastery Sister, Perrette, who struggles with her feelings for a fellow Sister, Barbe. Perrette also sees visions of a beautiful city that beckons for her to enter. When she does, she learns it’s the embodiment of all the words ever written by women, can be visited by women at any time, from any time and culture, and only experienced by women. Here she learns the poetry of Psáppho and Hamda bint Ziyad. Here too walks Wallada herself in her journey to self-discovery. Other women’s lives are changed by the words of the city, and Perrette finds the courage to invite Barbe to the city where they can share their love openly.

A powerful story of an eons long struggle. Well researched with carefully crafted translations from the original Greek and Arabic. And the word prayed? “I need.” Definitely Recommended.