Tor.com turns five today (Aww). All this week they’ve been posting a variety of different content on their website to celebrate. I love it. It’s their birthday and they’re the ones giving things away. Well done Tor. Well done. I stopped by on Wednesday and found this little gem awaiting me (you’ll have to register but it’s so worth it and all you need to give is an email address). It’s the past five years of short fiction published by Tor on their website. A short fiction reviewer’s wet dream if there ever was one. I was perhaps more excited because, despite my general love of all things related to this company, I hardly ever get to read any of their short fiction. Tor’s pretty massive when it comes to all the content they produce. It’s really quite impressive. All the blog posts, re-reads, read throughs, newsletters, TV show re-watches . . . and then the novels! Sadly, when I get my newsletter I tend to skim over the links to the short fiction in favor of the news and other little tidbits they pack into those emails. I always save the emails for a while with the intent to come back to them but alas . . . I have a short attention span.
But there is no longer anything to fear! They’ve compiled everything for me in a (rather large) file which I’ve uploaded to my kindle (although not to my amazon account; it’s too big!).
Anyway, this week’s short fiction review happens to come from this large anthology and it’s entitled Super Bass by Kai Ashante Wilson. I’ll be honest, I have never heard of Wilson before and I sincerely hoped that Super Bass was somehow related to the Nicki Minaj song of the same title.
It isn’t (at least not so far as I can tell).
But it is a great story! It tells of a place called Sea-John which, by the by, has people marry in groups of three. Sometimes two dudes and a chick, sometimes two chicks and a dude, and as often as not, three dudes or three chicks (really wishing I had gone with bi-the-bi earlier). Weird? Not in the slightest. The story, while taking issue with traditional gender associations, doesn’t dwell on the differences between our culture and that of the work. The differences simply are.
This was quite refreshing for me in a lot of ways. As an English major, I’d read many books and stories (and watched films too!) that took issue with sex, and gender, and the different ways our society is constructed which won’t allow for ‘like’ to sleep with ‘like’. I heard the message. I understood it. I wanted it to change. However, I was always left with a feeling of guilt. That because my preferences were aligned with the [suppressing] majority, I couldn’t truly understand the cause or help.
I didn’t feel that way at all while reading Super Bass. I felt more as if I had been invited to celebrate something beautiful, maybe exotic, but beautiful none the less. Perhaps a better way to describe it is welcomed. I was welcomed to celebrate something beautiful and exotic.
I think this is something common among science fiction stories in general. In one of those afore mentioned English classes, we talked a great deal about Octavia Butler’s work. I’m certainly no Butler scholar (although I see that Wilson’s work is also published in an anthology written by real Butler Scholars so I assume that he is), but I got the sense that she looked towards a future in which gender (and for that matter race as well) might no longer be such an obstacle for those who are in opposition to the mainstream. Not only that you might love only for that which makes you love, but that others might accept it as they accept something simple. Like an alternate route to work one morning or your favorite flavor of ice cream (mint?).
What I haven’t decided yet is whether or not things have progressed enough that Wilson writes without hesitation. Does he write, as any of us might, about love simply because it is love and these are ways in which we might love?. Or does Wilson write with a sense of duty? Does he write because we are still keeping the status quo and because without some vision of a more accommodating future, we might never reach it at all. I would like to believe the first but feel again as if my situation makes me naïve. Perhaps I can resolve to just be happy that I enjoyed a great story. Perhaps I’m still not doing enough . . .