Review of Bogi Takács, “Shovelware” in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 213-216 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)
Content note: Allusions to civil war.
I know a lot of writers are uncertain of how to write a diverse cast of characters because they don’t know how to introduce the diversity without making it a plot point. Any writer who feels like they need a master class in how to do this should read this story: What I loved most about it was how cheerfully and blatantly Takács it. Liliane is “tall, muscular, ethnically mixed” (p. 213), but, as she tells Tamás when they first meet, she’s not Muslim. Tamás is an immigrant, and gay. With the exception of the first (which the omniscient narrator tells us), all the other facts come out in conversation. Because that’s how it works — people talk about who they are. If you’re gay, if you’re an immigrant, if you’re a Muslim or not, it’s just part of who you are and how you want people to see you (or not). Reading stories like this is reassuring to me as a writer — because it shows it isn’t that hard! — and as a reader, because knowing this sort of thing can be done makes reassures me of the increasing likelihood that I can find stories with characters like me.
Other than that, the story seemed almost ordinary — nothing very deep or technical or fantastical beyond two people who meet and become friends — but the final three paragraphs turned that impression on its head. Yet again, Takács shows they know how to deliver a subtle punch when you least expect it.
(First published in Nature March 10, 2016).