REVIEW: “Unit Two Does Her Makeup” by Laura Duerr

Review of Laura Duerr, “Unit Two Does Her Makeup”, Luna Station Quarterly 46 (2021): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

I didn’t expect a story of make-up, misogyny (okay, that isn’t fun, but the way it was casually ignored was), and a conscious navigation of the uncanny valley to end up being so empowering. It was an accomplished telling from the POV of an AI, who sometimes awkwardly, sometimes smoothly straddles the line between being herself and being more humanlike, and I’m considering reading it to my newly-discovered-make-up daughter. I think it’s got a message that she’d value hearing.

(Weirdly, though, this was the second story of this issue that had proofreading issues: Sometimes it’s Suzanne, sometimes Susana, and I think the one lone instance of “Maya” was meant to be Suzan(ne/a). Frustrating.)

REVIEW: “Perennial” by Laura Duerr

Review of Laura Duerr, “Perennial”, in David G. Clark, Callum Colback, Joe Butler, and Alex Hareland, eds., Beneath Strange Stars, (TL;DR Press, 2020): 221-226 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

The best near-future/dystopia is the sort that seems so plausible, you half expect it to already be true. Even though we don’t currently have body mods like MalibuGlow or enlarged irises or GentleTone arms, they’re all plausible enough, and once you entertain the idea of cosmetic body mods then it’s an easy hop, skip, and a jump to government-required, industrial mods for manual labor, the sort you get when your “parents were either critically ill, dead, absent, or in so much debt that their only solution was to enroll their daughter in a government work program and have her transformed into a machine” (p. 223). A scarily realistic story, softened by some really likeable characters.

REVIEW: “Transcripts of Tapes Found Near The Depot, 06-45” by Laura Duerr

Review of Laura Duerr, “Transcripts of Tapes Found Near The Depot, 06-45”, Luna Station Quarterly 36 (2018): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

One often thinks of “post-apocalyptic fiction” as involving some sort of discrete apocalypse, a single event that separates history into “before” and “after”. Nuclear war, or an asteroid hitting the earth, or something like that. It’s easy to read stories like that as fiction, because people are bad at calculating the realistic odds of events like that actually happening.

But apocalypses can also be gradual things, things where there is no clear starting point, no clear moment where we can say “this is where things went wrong”. Global warming is one of those insidious apocalypses, and the likelihood is high that we’ve probably already past the moment where things first went wrong.

Which makes stories like Duerr’s — clearly in the post-apocalyptic genre, but where the apocalypse is a gradual, continuous event rather than a discrete one — hard to read, because they are a bit too much like truth and a bit too little like fiction. These tape transcripts are from our near future, and describe a world where the rivers have dried up, so there is no water left to power the generators, which means no power, which means no internet, but no one wants to go onto the internet anyway, because all the woe and horror drown out any useful information. They’re a mirror of a potential future, at least, and a scary future it is.