REVIEW: “Tenari” by Michael Merriam

Review of Michael Merriam, “Tenari”, in Catherine Lundoff, ed., Scourge of the Seas of Time (and Space) (Queen of Swords Press, 2018): 168-180 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Captain Reed’s ship, the Black Manta, hasn’t always been black. Decades ago, the ship was just the Manta, an attack ship in the Colonial Defense Forces. At the time, Captain Reed wasn’t captain, merely senior lieutenant, and her current XO, Roger Baldry, was navigator and second officer. But it’s been a long time since Reed and Baldry encountered the mythical alien race, the Tenari, and — when no one else did — lived to tell the tale. Now the Manta is a pirate ship, no longer a military ship, and Reed and Baldry are facing the Tenari again. They were lucky once to escape with their lives; will they be lucky enough to escape a second time?

Merriam’s story is filled with rich detail and a panoply of characters, which I liked. However, two things about this story bothered or confused me. First, half the time the captain was named Kathleen Reed, the other half she was Katherine Reed, and I was never sure if this was intentional or just something that slipped past proofreading. Second, with almost no exception, the female characters were referred to solely by their given name, while the male characters were referred to by either their surname or surname + title. It’s such a small thing, but to see “Janet” (Sobrinski) working side by side (Roger) “Baldry”, “Mr. Roberts” the helmsman working with crewmember “Tilly” (no surname), was a constant reminder of how even when female characters are given equal screen time with male in a story, they are still treated unequally. We’ve come so far in terms of representation in SFF stories; but there is still so much further left to go.

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