REVIEW: “Ten Thousand Sleeping Beauties” by Jocelyn Koehler

Review of Jocelyn Koehler, “Ten Thousand Sleeping Beauties”, Luna Station Quarterly 30: Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

My first reaction was that I straight up love the title, with its evocation of both European fairy tales and 1001 nights. And while the story itself is not a fairy tale, it certainly involves one, albeit a darker, scarier one than we normally tell our children (even in Grimms’ grim tales, there is always a prince’s kiss to awaken the sleeper).

My second reaction was “how am I going to explain what is so poignant in this story without spoilers?” Let me try: Despite evidence to the contrary, despite the perennial moans throughout the ages that youth aren’t what they were like in our day, humanity as a whole is remarkably optimistic: We persist in thinking that, eventually, things will get better, they have to get better; or at least that they won’t get worse, not really. For example, the entire industry of cryogenics is based on the idea that the future will be better than the present.

But one day, the future will be the present. What then?

My third reaction was that the ending made me cry.

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4 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Ten Thousand Sleeping Beauties” by Jocelyn Koehler

  1. Hey Sara 🙂

    Thanks for the review! The title of the story is really lovely.

    This part of your review I found quite interesting:

    humanity as a whole is remarkably optimistic: We persist in thinking that, eventually, things will get better

    It got me thinking because I just recently was confronted with this myself. I am studying Chinese and it was very interesting for me to realize that this linear optimistic worldview that you describe is actually not a paradigm that is shared by humanity as a whole. Chinese people generally (as far as one should make statements for a group of people, of course) see the world in a cyclic order, which means that they expect things to get better, then worse and then better again and so forth.

    Anyway, I thought that was super fascinating and just something that we usually are not aware of. I love to get to know those differences in culture and worldview, especially when I find them in places that I would never have expected them because, for me, with my own background, they are quite unimaginable.

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    1. Mel, thanks so much for your reply! You’re totally right — I was writing that part of the review from my position steeply entrenched in the cultural heritage of ancient Greece (occupational hazard as a philosopher, unfortunately; in the West we still aren’t very good at training others, or ourselves, in non-Western traditions!). Now I’m curious what people who have a world-view like the one you described think about things like cryogenics; is it worth freezing your body if the period when you’re revived is one of the “worse” rather than one of the “better” periods?

      Now I’m also thinking of cultures that believe in re-incarnation; that seems to allow both options, that things can be cyclical and that they can get continually better, and what determines which is the case is very much located in human agency.

      So many interesting things to think about. That’s speculative fiction at its best, doing what it should be doing. 🙂

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      1. Sara, you are so right, speculative fiction can offer so many impulses. You know, I am probably gonna see my Taiwanese friend tomorrow and ask her about it because that is hard to tell for me. I might be back with some more input on this 🙂

        By the way, the reason this linear-vs-cyclic worldview came up for me was when I read JY Yang’s Waiting for a Bright Moon, which is free online on Tor.com’s website. I needed to write a small thesis for uni and it was perfect because it revealed a lot of depth and Chinese background. The story is great for people with and without Chinese/Asian background, but because of these different worldviews, it reads quite different depending on the mindset with which you approach.

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