REVIEW: “Caught Root” by Julia K. Patt

Review of Julia K. Patt, “Caught Root”, in Glass and Gardens: Solar Punk Summers, edited by Sarena Ulibarri, (World Weaver Press, 2018): 1-7 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

What took my breath away from the very first paragraphs was the depth of hope in this story. The future that both Hillside and New-Ur occupy is quite a bit different from the present we are currently in, but true to the anthology’s self-description of “optimistic science fiction”, Dr. Orkney of Hillside and Dr. Khadir of New-Ur meet not as antagonists but “for an exchange of ideas”, in hopes that each settlement can benefit the other. Every single thing about how Orkney and Khadir meet, grow to trust each other, and forge a future together is hopeful, and reading this story made me happy.

There was one strange aspect about reading it, though. The story is narrated in the first-person, and I, somewhat surprisingly for my usual reading habits, defaulted to reading the narrator as being a woman. It wasn’t until the second page when Dr. Orkney’s given name is mentioned that I was jarred from this default; and even then, only when his name or some other explicit reference was made was I reminded that he was a man. On the one hand, it sort of felt like a trick might have been missed, that the story could only have been made stronger by the presence of a female scientist as the lead. On the other hand, without Ewan being who he was, the sweet romance that developed would not have been the same. I would like to complain about the fact that I couldn’t have both, but it’s churlish to expect authors to perform contradictions, so I will be satisfied with being contented with how the story was written.

REVIEW: “In Search of Stars” by Matthew Bright

Review of Matthew Bright, “In Search of Stars”, Glittership Episode 43 (2017): Read/listen online. Reviewed by Julia K. Patt.

What an unusual, mysterious story.

Our unnamed narrator is a scientist living in Los Angeles; he develops a blue paint that makes people float away into the sky. This is what he does with his one-night stands, the men he takes back to his apartment. He wants these men, sometimes desperately, but doesn’t want to linger with them or see them again. There’s a sense that by releasing them into the atmosphere, our narrator is protecting himself, distancing himself from what he really wants.

Of course, not all of them go quietly or disappear unforgotten. We can understand, perhaps, why the narrator is so uneasy.

Anonymity dominates not only in his life but also in the city itself, a peculiar hybrid of shiny Hollywood glamour and “Good old American filth.” Where all the women are named Marilyn and even laundromats turn into something very different at night. No one is exactly as they seem or as they claim to be, including—especially—the man telling this story.

It’s a story rich in the unspoken, the undeclared, which becomes more than a little unsettling (in the best way). There’s very little dialogue, aside from the narrator’s conversations with Eugene, an old friend from school who works on movies. And even his time with Eugene eventually lapses into silence at the story’s conclusion.

Then the narrator must make a decision: to stay or float away himself and join the men he’s sent into the sky.

REVIEW: “In Strange, Far Places” by Julia K. Patt

Review of Julia K. Patt, “In Strange, Far Places”, Luna Station Quarterly 30: Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

What happens when you fare forth into the stars, searching for a new home, but never find one? What happens when you no longer have the resources to go further — and you also no longer have the resources to get back to where you started? So much speculation about space travel seeks for the happy ending, that we will leave this planet and find a new one to make our home. But in truth, the endings of most space travellers will not be happy, they will be “left to live out their lives in the void until the synthetic atmos failed or the oxygenating phytos died or the food ran out.”

When your resources are used up, when you’re left to the mercies of the passing ships who might stop and pick you up and take you home, that is when this story starts. Em recounts her history and that of her comrades in simple, straightforward words; this is her life, and she knows that she is lucky. Not every story will have a happy ending, and yet this doesn’t mean that the story itself is not happy. But happy or sad, who knows what lurks behind the stars…