We’re nearing the end of the voting period for this year’s Hugo Award’s. Time to squee just one more time.
Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time by K.M. Szpara (Uncanny, May/June 2017)
This novellette. Oh my ghod, this novelette. It’s a vampire story and there’s blood and sex; if none of that’s your thing, well, you might want to take three giant bunny steps back. If you like (or love, or lust) all of those things, then come on in, the water (blood?) is fine, and the story is so much more than a vampire story.
The first paragraphs get me in my gender feels hard and sharp and unexpected. I gasp, stare at the screen as I try to wrap my head around what I am actually reading. Not because the words or the paragraphs are incomprehensible–Szpara’s writing is a delight–but because it is Out There. Right from the start, it’s out there that Finley, the first-person narrator of this story, is queer and trans (and I have to squash down the little pop culture voice in the back of my that head quotes, “What are we supposed to do? Call the cops? It’s already out there!”) and I am dazed by the fierceness of my delight. No euphemisms, no guessing, no “Maybe if I squint or look at it sideways”, no “Well, I can make it my headcanon”. The world in which this story takes place is a world in which trans people exist.
Oh, so, if you were okay with vampires, but you’re not okay with a queer trans protag? Well… the water might not be quite so fine for you, but I’ll be here sinking in a little bit deeper.
There is so much in this story: identity, the messiness of bodies, the way society defines who is a person, the way the medical industry pathologizes transness, the way doctors ignore the lived experiences of their patients because They’re The Doctor (and know best, or can’t admit that they don’t know). This story takes place in a world that accepts (and regulates the hell out of) vampires, but seems less willing to accept (while still regulating the hell out of) trans people, and that gets to me, too, because I’m not convinced that isn’t where we’d be right now if vampires were real. Though I’m comforted that the validation Finn feels at the start of the story (My last thought before passing out is how weirdly validating it is that this cis gay guy targeted me, when I was too scared to even piss in the bar’s men’s room.) is echoed throughout by Andreas never once misgendering Finn. So while society, in general, is not the best, there are still individuals who are supportive.
By the time I get to the end of the story I’m a mess of gender feels and anger and hope, and I loved the ride from start to finish. And from start to finish, I feel seen.