RogerBW's Blog

Uncanny 30, September/October 2019 13 October 2019

Uncanny is a bimonthly on-line magazine edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas.

Everything is available in HTML from the magazine's site, and it can be bought in various other formats.

This is the "Disabled People Destroy Fantasy" special, follow-up to last year's ditto for science fiction.

Fiction: "Away With the Wolves" by Sarah Gailey has a woman with crippling arthritis, or something like it… but only when in human form. The wolf form is just fine. But she's trying to live in a village… there's obvious symbolism here, but (unlike many symbol-heavy stories) it still works as a story. This one's rather fine; I like it much better than the Hugo-nominated "STET".

"Tower" by Lane Waldman gives us the witch and her daughter, trapped by hair that they can't readily cut; I liked the personalities, but there's a deliberate distancing where Waldman gives us alternate outcomes ("or maybe they did this…"), which is a thing that's never worked for me.

"Seed and Cinder" by Jei D. Marcade has a supernatural beast that will eventually get big enough to eat the sun, but for now it's helping the humans to fight fires. Some lovely imagery but I feel it doesn't quite know where it wants to go.

"The Tailor and the Beast" by Aysha U. Farah flips the fairy tale so that the father offers himself to ransom his daughter. And it gets the core point of the tale, unlike the Disney version. Rather fine (especially in its pragmatic observation of depression).

"This Is Not My Adventure" by Karlo Yeager Rodríguez: why do people write stories in second-person present? It's hardly ever justified, and this isn't one of the exceptions. The trope of a child who had magical adventures in a fantasy land, grown up and thinking about them again, already feels tired. And somehow the depression here seems mistaken and self-indulgent in a way that in Farah's story it didn't.

"The Fifth Day" by Tochi Onyebuchi is a story of a brainwashed slave reaching consciousness, but for my taste is too busy pushing its themes to have any actual plot or setting.

Poetry: "Cavitation" by Toby MacNutt doesn't go far, but has some neat ideas. The rest of the poetry says nothing to me.

Of the editorials, only "Build the Door, Hold the Door: Protecting the Citadel of Diverse Speculative Fiction–Nonfiction Introduction" by Nicolette Barischoff has much to say beyond the obvious: that if disabled people are going to take their place among fantasy writers, they need also to help keep fantasy in general viable.

"Fears and Dragons and the Thoughts of a Disabled Writer" by Day Al-Mohamed is a good look at how disability tends to be used when it's used at all.

"Sudden and Marvelous Invention: Hearing Impairment & Fabulist (non)Fiction" by Gwendolyn Paradice has minor auditory hallucinations and confusion brewing up into microstories.

"The Blind Prince Reimagined: Disability in Fairy Tales" by Kari Maaren does a good job of getting across to me how disability can be treated better, even if part of the plot deals with its removal: that becoming disabled; shouldn't be the end of the world; that Rapunzel's blind prince shouldn't be living wild in the forest just because he's blind, because he is still the prince.

"How to Send Your Disabled Protagonist on an Adventure in 7 Easy Steps" by A. T. Greenblatt seems pretty straightforward. But it doesn't address why you should have a disabled protagonist, perhaps because it's regarded as too obvious.

"The Visions Take Their Toll: Disability and the Cost of Magic" by Dominik Parisien… and then in turn this piece starts straight in with that consideration of motivation. Having the cliché of a blind prophet in your story says things about how your world works, specifically that disabilities happen for a reason. Which may be fine if you actually want to say that, but much of the time you don't…

"Part of That World: Finding Disabled Mermaids in the Works of Seanan McGuire" by Cara Liebowitz points up the difficulty of using the mermaid on land as a metaphor for disability (having to operate in a world unsuited to it) when it's already heavily used to mean an exotic sex toy for the male hero. Well, yes. McGuire is better at dealing with this than most writers, apparently.

"Interview: Lane Waldman" by Sandra Odell asks a few hard questions about "Tower", and Waldman doesn't seem to answer them all that well.

"Interview: Karlo Yeager Rodríguez" by Sandra Odell doesn't make me like the story any better.

I may nominate the Farah, because I love it, though I don't think it'll get far. Otherwise I found this quite a dispiriting issue.

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