2017’sWhereThe Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction & Fantasy isan anthology edited by Lucas K. Law and Derwin Mak1.
Forewordby Lucas K. Law
Law,Canadian by choice, makes a call for kindness and mutual support.
Introductionby Elsie Chapman
Chapmanasks for more diversity in fiction; not only that, but it should beinformed diversity.
Whichis to say, just dropping a handful of faceless ninjas into your storydoesn’t make it diverse. This anthology offers one path to informeddiversity.
“Spiritof Wine” by Tony Pi
Amoment of foolish self-indulgence leaves two hapless would-bescholars possessed by Yǒu Shén, a fun-loving ghost little concernedabout the ruin the ghost will make of the scholars’ lives.
Theeasy answer is to introduce Yǒu Shén to the ghosts ofMarion and George Kirby… but since the Kirbys won’t be born (let alone die) for anothereight centuries, the scholars are forced to come up with anothersolution.
“ThedataSultan of Streets and Stars” by Jeremy Szal
Alamentable misunderstanding involving cutting edge AI research and asurprising number of dead bodies inspired programmer Bodhi torelocate to space, far from the irate, well-connected and heavilyarmed relatives of the victims. Blackmail sends him back to Earth, tocontend with killers and unexpected allies.
AIsare called “djinn” in this but I am 70% sure they are not actualdjinn bound into robot bodies. That would kind of a cool idea for ascience fantasy story of the sort that ends when the angry djinn freethemselves.
Theseparticular djinn are not three laws compliant, but the carnage turnsout not to be their fault. Pity that the investigation that followedthe unpleasantness wasn’t diligent enough.
“WeavingSilk” by Amanda Sun
Ina Japan so reduced by calamity that it cannot tell whether or not theoutside world survived its own problems, two sisters do their best tostay alive. Prosperity is out of the question and so too is long termsurvival.
Thiscombines the optimism of JapanSinkswith the upbeat air ofGraveof the Fireflies.
“VanillaRice” by Angela Yuriko Smith
Ayoung woman rejects her mother’s attempts to shape her into analter ego, a beautiful version that will share her mother’sobsessions and prejudices.
Oneof SF’s common tricks is turning the metaphoric into the literal.In this case, it’s turning the daughter into blue-eyed blondebecause that’s the mom’s idea of beauty.
“LookingUp” by S. B. Divya
Imminentimmigration to Mars provides a young woman the chance to come toterms with her tragic past.
“AStar is Born” by Miki Dare
Accessto multiple timelines allows a woman to see all the lives she mighthave had. None of them were pleasant, because she was bornJapanese-Canadian in 1928.
Iwonder how many Canadians are aware that we internedJapanese-Canadians during WWII?
“MyLeft Hand” by Ruhan Zhao
Afortune-teller’s alarmed prediction that a researcher’s boldexperiment would end his life gave an alarming edge to what shouldhave been a triumphant day. Well, the experiment did appear to fail …but that’s not a death sentence. Or at least it does not seem tobe. There are some unexpected after-effects.
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“DNR”by Gabriela Lee
Melissa’sjob gives her an unexpected opportunity. She will meet an old facefrom her half-forgotten, tragic past. If only her job weren’tdismembering the recently dead for salvage.
It’snot all breaking people down for parts. Her job also involvesfacilitating other people’s grieving process. In this specificcase, she does a subpar job thanks to factors beyond her control.
“AVisitation For The Spirit Festival” by Diana Xin
Mrs.Liu returns to a China she has not seen in decades. Her mission:rescue her daughter. But Miss Liu has no particular need nor desireto be saved. The unseen ghost tagging along with Mrs, Liu mightrequire rescue, as might Mrs. Liu herself.
Doesit seem as if this collection contains a plethora of stories aboutpeople coming to terms with their tragic pasts? Are there perhapsjust a few too many “parents inflict unrequested, unwanted, and insome cases unhelpful assistance on their kids” stories?
“Rose’sArm” by Calvin D. Jim
Roseis convinced that a prosthesis will turn her into a productive memberof her damaged family. In order to afford one, the young girlconsiders a devil’s bargain.
Thisis one of the few steampunk stories that won’t allow modern readersto focus on the goggles and darling little hats, while ignoring someof the nastier aspects of the past.
“Backto Myan” (translated by Shaoyan Hu) by Regina Kanyu Wang
Retrievedfrom her dying planet as an infant, an adoptee takes full advantageof an opportunity to express how she feels about the use to which herworld has been put.
Thegalactics have found an application of Dyson Spheres that manages tobe as dickish as Orbitsville.Notout of malice, as far as I can tell. It’s just that the builderscould not be bothered to exert the tiny additional effort it wouldtake to avoid constructing a Dyson Sphere that shadows a livingplanet.
“Meridian”by Karin Lowachee
Theyoung man accepted his wandering life of space piracy (or as near toit as makes no difference) because he believed he was the last of hispeople. He had no kin to disappoint, no society to please. What is heto do when he discovers that he is wrong?
Tragicpasts. They’re tragic. They result in a great many tragic presents.
“JoseonFringe” by Pamela Q. Fernandes
Guidedby an enigmatic figure from the future, King Sejong struggles tosecure Korea’s future (with well-timed innovations) before his foesremove him from power.
Sejongis also known as “Sejong The Great”. Moredetails here.
“WintryHearts of Those Who Rise” by Minsoo Kang
Whathope have the merely meritorious in the face of those with socialposition?
Whathope have the merely powerful in the face of weaponized paperwork?
There’severy chance that the protagonist (a functionary) will become a muchgreater monster than the person who offended him. However, the storyis mostly told from his perspective, so it’s the status-consciousformer mistress who plays the antagonist in this drama.
“UdāttaŚloka” by Deepak Bharathan
Thegreat city has stone walls that are able to turn any mundane weapon.It has armies that can defeat all enemies and raze cities. How couldit be threatened by a young foreign woman consecrated to a livinggod?
Onthe upside, the people of Mohenjo-Daro did get to star in one ofhistory’s great mysteries. Their moment of casual spite towardstheir neighbours was not without benefit, at least to archaeologists.
“Crash”by Melissa Yuan-Innes
Acrash landing forces an unwanted ethical dilemma on lunar colonists.
Iwasn’t crazy about the story’s execution (it feels like the firstchapter in a novel, not a standalone) but the fact there’s anydebate about how to handle the problem puts it one up on stories like“The Cold Equations.”
“Memoriam”by Priya Sridhar
Unableto deal with his father’s death, Anish decides to build a robotreplica of his father. Arobotunaware that it is a replica.
Becausethatcanonly end well.
“TheObserver Effect” by E. C. Myers
Americahas dozens of superhumans. How is it, therefore, that none of themare Asian? One empowered Asian-American is going to find out.
It’sthe same wilful blindness that caused this man
to be played by this man
in the movie WorldTrade Centre.It’s not that white people in this fictional universe arecommitting ethnic cleansing. At least so far as we know. But it doesseem that they cannot bear to be reminded that other ethnicitiesexist.
“Decision”by Joyce Chng
Anambitious young … female finally gets the chance to build a life of her own.
Notrecommended for arachnophobes.
“MoonHalves” by Anne Carly Abad
Hopingto protect his village from forest demons, Soliran embraces aninnovative solution.
“TheBridge of Dangerous Longings” by Rati Mehrotra
SumadruBridge links the mainland to the unknown. As far as officials areconcerned, it means death to those who cross. Some are willing toface death if it means escape.
“OldSouls” by Fonda Lee
Clairecan recall all seven of her lives. What her memories cannot do isshow her any way to escape the violent deaths that have ended each ofher previous lives.
AgelessPearl cannot recall past lives, because she’s only ever had theone — but she is sure she has much to teach Claire.
Thisis probably the strongest story in the collection.
“TheOrphans of Nilaveli” by Naru Dames Sundar
Theofficials in charge of the orphans have attempted to erase theorphans’ past. Any reminder would upset the placid, happy lives ofthe other citizen. The orphans cannot forget. They invent gestures,perhaps futile, of remembrance.
Tryingto transform minority children into emulations of the majority is ashuman activity as pearl-clutching about the reproductive habits ofthe poor. So is doing one’s best to erase the occasional lamentableatrocity from public memory. Odd that whileoppressive reproduction policies are a common motif in SF, the othetwo don’t turn up in SF veryoften.
Afterwordby Derwin Mak
Acknowledgements,About The Contributors, About The Editors, and Appendix: MentalHealth Resources & Anti-discrimination Resources
At some point I should observe that Asia is huge and most humans either live there or have roots that lead back to Asia. It’s pretty weird western SF has traditionally either ignored Asia, consigned it to stagnant irrelevance or a source of faceless, malevolent hordes. Well, less weird and more unacceptable.
Aninteresting discovery I made if I read something while recoveringfrom two back to back blood sugar crashes: my impression of the textwill lean negative while if I compose a review having just consumedchocolate, suddenly positive elements I had previously overlooked arerevealed to me. On an unrelated note, while the site rules forbidmonetary compensation from authors to me, there is no policyregarding large boxes of high-quality chocolate.
Thisis a solid anthology. Since some themes reappear so often it may bebest read a little at a time, rather than all at once. The Lee was myfavourite but my list of authors to keep an eye out for definitelygot longer while I was reading this.
1:Chapters-Indigo inexplicably thinks Fonda Lee edited WhereThe Stars Rise.