Monday, August 2, 2010

Cat Valente's Thirteen Ways (2010 Story 244)

Last night, I noticed author Cat Valente announce on Twitter that she had a new story posted online at Clarkesworld Magazine's site. I replied to her that I'd have to track it down, she sent me the link. I then Tweeted "bout to read @catvalente's newest story, over at Join me, won't you?" Cat got a kick out of that and retweeted it, and others picked it up as well. She also said "I love the idea of Twitter-organizes live communal reading."

Which is all just prelude to actually posting my review, of course. In case people are wondering, I've reviewed two other Cat Valente stories in the past year: Palimpsest and Days of Flaming Motorcycles. I liked both stories quite a bit. In fact, I only recently found out that Palimpsest is also a novel, which I will be reading for [info]calico_reaction 's August book club here on livejournal.

Story 244. Thirteen Ways of Looking at Space/Time By Catherynne M. Valente, in the August 2010 issue of Clarksworld magazine. My brain needed a day to process this story after reading it last night, mainly because I dove into it in the midst of a headache (of course, had I gone to bed when the headache started, I'd have completely missed Cat's announcement that the story was live). "Thirteen Ways" is not an easy story to read, but it's worth the extra effort you have to put into it. There are two threads going on: permutations on various creation myths, retold with hard science tossed in among the mythology (it took me a minute or so to get used to this, and then I found the concept working for despite my dim understanding of most actual science); and a science fiction writer's life story, told in forwards- and backwards-moving vignettes (which comment not only on the nature of memory as a component of creating fiction, but also on how we recreate our memories, consciously or not, to support who we think we are). By alternating science-filled creation myths with science fiction author life story, we get to look at the creative act from multiple sides. I can't claim to speak for Cat in terms of what the story was intended to Be About, but what I drew from it was the idea that we can reinterpret the act of creation however we want: the fact is, we'll never truly understand why and how it happens, it just does. I felt each of the vignettes, as time-and-space-warped as they were, touched on that idea. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to read the story for again for the first time (I think ... depending on which me is writing this review and which me is editing it and which me/you is reading it...)

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