Short Stories 366:97 — “By Degrees and Dilatory Time,” by SL Huang

coverIn case it’s not clear by this point, I have adored my journey through Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction, and really suggest you pick up a copy if you haven’t already. This short story, the first of two reprints in the collection, is a perfect example of why.

We meet a man as he faces down terrifying news: he has a rare, aggressive cancer, in his eyes. They must go, much like a ruined knee had to go back when he was a skater, replaced by something better (but removed him from being allowed to compete professionally). We follow him along this journey: being “lucky” to have caught the cancer early enough that removing his eyes is enough; getting to “choose” his prosthetics to some degree; facing his own, now altered, reflection; navigating what it means when others look at him, and what they assume. There’s a lot packed into Huang’s story, including some brilliantly written ambiguity on the part of the narrative voice and his own feelings about his prosthetics.

I love this story so much, and so much of that is very much rooted in the ambiguity Huang writes. This man spends ages trying to decide how to feel, how to adjust, how to change as his life moves forward whether or not he’s ready for it. The result of the story, a tale of choices (and non-choices), and the fallout of “replacements” and a society that views them as somehow equal equivalents is… well. It’s a fantastic story, and I’m so glad I got to read it.

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