I’m a big fan of science fiction that takes vivid, strange images into the future. I think, actually, I always have — and if you look at a lot of classic SF, that’s what it’s doing. That’s obvious when reading someone like Stanislaw Lem, but I think it’s still true about folks who we consider more traditional now. It’s just that some of the weird images they used have been carried on in the conversation so far now that they’ve become standard, and have lost their newness. Stories like this, and space opera by people like Yoon Ha Lee, bring a contemporary disjunctive strangeness to the genre. I look forward to seeing what happens when the next generation gets bored with it.
If you like odd surrealism and lyrical writing, Maria Dahvana Headley is worth perusing.
“The Traditional” by Maria Dahvana Headley:
By your first anniversary, the world’s stopped making paper, and so you can’t give 3your boyfriend the traditional gift. You never would have anyway, regardless of circumstances. You’re not that kind of girl. You pride yourself on your original sin. It’s the hot you trade in.
So you give him the piece of your skin just beneath your ribcage on the right side, where the floating ribs bend in. It’s a good part. Not the best. You’re like a food hoarder who pretends her larder’s empty, all the while running her finger along the dusty ledge that leads to the trick shelves that hold the jars of Caspian caviar. You’ve always been the kind of liar who leans back and lets boys fall into you while you see if you can make them fall all the way out the other side. You want them to feel like they’ve hit Narnia. You traffic in interdimensional fucking, during which they transcend space and time, and you go nowhere. When they fall in love, you Shun & Break™ them. Their poor plastic hearts are Pez dispensers topped with copyright violation Mickey Mice.
Your boy’s not falling for this shit. He simply refuses. He sees through your methods. You met him in a bar on the night of the first apocalypse, just prior, and both of you somehow lived through the night.
He clocked you from moment one, when you bought him a drink and brought it to him, fresh lipstick on your mouth, altering your walk to cause him pain. He drank it. He then took the cherry out of yours and drank your drink too, looking at you the whole time like he was a prime transgressor who was going to rock your world until it broke.
“You gonna try to make me love you now?” he asked. “That your thing?”
“Brother,” you said, taken aback by the way he’d just needlessly whacked the rules of flirtation, “I don’t even know you exist.”