Favorite Fiction Recommendation: “Her Husband’s Hands” by Adam Troy-Castro

Her Husband’s Hands” by Adam Troy-Castro, originally published in 2011, was honored with a Nebula nomination. The story was one of my picks as well as that of the membership at large. It’s a disturbing story, no doubt about it. At the time, I wrote (rephrased somewhat to make the writing sharper):

A war widow receives bad news from the front: her husband is dead. However, they’ve managed to save his hands, and only his hands… It’s dark, intensely written, and intimately and compassionately characterized

From the story:

Her husband’s hands came home on a Friday. Rebecca had received word of the attack, which had claimed the lives of seven other soldiers in his unit and reduced three others to similar, minimal fractions of themselves: One man missing above the waist, another missing below, a third neatly halved, like a bisected man on display in an anatomy lab.

The Veteran’s Administration had told her it could have been worse. The notification officer had reminded her of Tatum, the neighbor’s daughter so completely expunged by her own moment under fire that only a strip of skin and muscle remained: A section of her thigh, about the size and shape of a cigarette pack, returned to her parents in a box and now living in their upstairs room, where it made a living proofreading articles on the internet. That’s no life, the notification officer said. But Bob, he pointed out, was a pair of perfect hands, amputated from the body at the wrists but still capable of accomplishing many great things. And there was always the cloning lottery. The chances were a couple of million to one, but it was something to hope for, and stranger things had happened.

Around 2011, there was a strong trend of stories about processing PTSD. It’s still a theme now, but it was even more dominant then. At 6,000 words, it’s a lot of emotional impact in a small space.

Quick Notes: Poetry Planet podcast, & Tiptree Anthology 99 Cents

A few quick notes for this week.

Poetry Planet podcast

Diane Severson puts together the poetry planet podcast that aired recently in this episode of starship sofa. She includes my poem, “Terrible Lizards,” which is about — as you might expect — dinosaurs. She asked me to include an anecdote about it:

Dinosaur eye1) I love dinosaurs. I never went through a dinosaur phase as a kid, but my husband never got over his, so when I met him in college, I got to have a late dinosaur phase, which we still enjoy together.

2) I was driving cross-country through the midwest (well, my husband was driving and I was passengering) and staring out of the windows at all the flat land, and trying to visualize cool things walking through it, which my husband can do and which I mostly can’t. Then I saw one of those huge irrigation devices and realized it was about dinosaur-sized. I never got the visualization trick down, but I can do the imagining with words thing.

Listen here.

Tiptree Anthology available at 99 cents:

Last year, I was honored to participate in the anthology project Letters to Tiptree.

Letters to TiptreeFor nearly a decade, between 1968 and 1976, a middle-aged woman in Virginia (her own words) had much of the science fiction community in thrall. Her short stories were awarded, lauded and extremely well-reviewed. They were also regarded as “ineluctably masculine”, because Alice Sheldon was writing as James Tiptree Jr.

In celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Alice Sheldon’s birth, and in recognition of the enormous influence of both Tiptree and Sheldon on the field, Twelfth Planet Press has published a selection of thoughtful letters written by science fiction and fantasy’s writers, editors, critics and fans to celebrate her, to recognise her work, and maybe in some cases to finish conversations set aside nearly thirty years ago.

I gave my answer in the form of a poem.

If you’re a Tiptree fan, now is the time to buy the book–until March 31, it’s available at 99 cents.

New Story: “Love Is Never Still”

Love Is Never Still” just came out in Issue 9 of Uncanny Magazine, a story about Galatea and Aphrodite, and their broken, bittersweet love affairs. The story begins with the sculptor’s perspective:

Pygmalion & Galatea“I’ve loved other sculptures. Though I’m not yet old, I have worked diligently at my art, and so have loved hundreds. I have loved leaping horses and dour-faced spearmen and exotic animals pieced together from sailors’ descriptions.

Galatea is my culmination. From the beginning, winnowing the ivory to her form has felt more like discovery than invention. Our bodies move together in conversation; mine contorts as I twist and crouch to discover precise angles, and she emerges from my labor.”

This took me about four months of intense concentration to write because it features about fifteen perspectives (the number went up and down while I was drafting) and the writing is very precise. Sometimes it felt like I was writing a really long poem. I actually wrote part of the story in verse (iambic pentameter), but my friend Barry Deutsch rightly convinced me that it slowed the story way down.

I’ll try to tempt you to read with another passage, this time from Galatea’s perspective:

Forms of AphroditeBirth is pain, and I have been twice born. First I was an egg of ivory until he struck away the pieces that were not me and cracked me open. Later, the goddess touched me with her fiery fingertips and melted away the good, solid quiet of my soul. She made me into hot, fragile skin, always beating with blood.

What misery it is to crack at the seams, to be forever bending and reshaping. Once, my body held its place in the world; once, it stood in perfect, unchanging balance. Now I am walking, stumbling, falling, sitting, smiling, resting, startling, kneeling, offering, dressing, approaching, avoiding.

My sculptor is nearby, but turns his face away. I chew a cube of cheese and swallow. Even my insides move.

Read here.