Sunday Shorts—A Word Shaped Like Bones by Kris Millering

coverI really struggled with this short story from Women Destroy Science Fiction on a few levels. One is kind of embarrassing, but I’ve admitted it before, so: I don’t do well with squick factor. The narrative of this short story places an artist in a small single-room space-ship on a long journey and there’s a dead man in the corner, slowly decaying. The decaying is described multiple times, and man, I had to make sure I was doing other things while I listened to this one so I couldn’t get too caught up in the details.

The story about the artist herself has a sharp-edged arc: she is traveling to an alien world to deliver sculptures she is crafting on the way. They are very alien—they don’t communicate with anything close to human language, and the thoughts of the artist are full of how this is such a unique thing for an artist to accomplish, with more than an edge of bitterness about her own successes (or lack thereof in a critical sense) back on Earth.

The payoff for this story will definitely vary by the readership. I loved how the narrative ended for the delivering of art half of the story, but the “who is the dead man?” part left me less satisfied. The breakdown of the narrative voice (she is definitely an unreliable narrator) certainly doesn’t show a sympathetic character, but she’s not so completely out of the range of empathy, and I think any creative types will find the journey and result an easy place to touch.

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