Short Stories 366:32 — “The Ones Who Stay and Fight,” by N.K. Jemisin

coverI’ve been a fan of N.K. Jemisin since I basically stumbled upon her Broken Earth series, so when I saw her collection, How Long ’til Black Future Month?, on audible, I snapped it up. Before anything else, I want to point out how fantastic the introduction was—Jemisin takes us on a tour of early 2000’s SF, and what it was like, and how she was advised to work with short fiction (to my great joy as a lover of short fiction and to the richer of everyone who loves SF short fiction), and—of course—the disaster that was early 2000’s SF when it came to voices other than that of the straight-white-cisgender-male.

“The Ones Who Stay and Fight” opens the collection with the description of a holiday, The Day of Good Birds, being celebrated in a city, Um-Helat. The holiday is pretty and fun and bright—and not all obligatory—and the city is likewise gentle and open and, in fact, a kind of utopia. The voice walks us through this city, shows us a few nooks and crannies, and then the story turns into something else: a glimpse of a world on the other side of a possibility from our own, and then a step further, and a step further, and then…

Well. I won’t ruin the story, but this is, to my mind, a perfect example of how you can raise a moral reflection with science fiction, exposing something raw of our own world with a deft words and clever speculations. I loved this story, which speaks to the reader via its own conceit, and instead of offering up Um-Helat as solely a contrast to all the evil we’ve done, offers just enough of hope to leave the reader conscious of potential.

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