Books We Read’s short story reading group voyaged to new worlds last week, as Chang Library graduate assistants Lila Kwederis and Jennifer Coffman led discussions of three science fiction and fantasy pieces!
Prolific author Neil Gaiman offers a funhouse-mirror take on teenage rites of passage in “How to Talk to Girls at Parties,” in which two teenage boys enter the strange new world of mixed-gender parties and discover that the girls they meet are stranger than they’d realized — and perhaps not even “girls” at all! Lila pointed out the unreliability and distracted state of the narrator (one of the boys looking back on the experience), who tellingly focuses on the physical description of the “girls” he meets without really registering the otherworldly things they say. You can read the story on Gaiman’s website here. (This piece was the basis for a 2017 movie of the same name.)
Jennifer brought our attention to science fiction and fantasy publisher Tor’s collection for International Women’s Day 2017, in which writers were invited to compose flash fiction inspired by the phrase “Nevertheless, she persisted” (unintentionally made famous by Senator Mitch McConnell as a justification for silencing Senator Elizabeth Warren in a heated debate). Amal El-Mohtar’s “Anabasis” and Seanan McGuire’s “Persephone” imagine women persisting in hopeless situations: a refugee and her child walking from the United States to Canada in bitter cold, and two determined blood donors in a dystopian society where they have little else to sell. We discussed the classical allusions in the titles of both stories, which shed a new light on their content.
Many thanks to Lila and Jennifer for bringing these stories to the group, and we hope you’ll join us next time! You can also check out more sci-fi and fantasy recommendations on the Books We Read LibGuide.