Review of Sam S. Kepfield, “Amber Waves”, in Glass and Gardens: Solar Punk Summers, edited by Sarena Ulibarri, (World Weaver Press, 2018): 184-198 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).
The stories in this anthology are all set in the future — maybe not in our future, per se, but definitely not in our now. The future of this story feels like it isn’t all that far away from our now; Kansas still grows wheat, global warming is still a problem, there’s still the FAA and Gatorade. In this future, Ryan and Sadie are attempting to grow their wheat green — and keep out the invading corporations who want to take them over.
Unfortunately, there were parts about this story that kept tripping me up — well, nothing about the story per se, but the way in which the characters were presented. The male gaze lies heavily upon Sadie, who ends up being both Mary-Sue and stereotypical. She had “no makeup today, but she didn’t need it” (p. 186), and Ryan has to “swallow some pride” to admit that “she was far better at [finances] than he was” (p. 187). But despite her skills in running the farm, what is it that she’s always ragging Ryan about? Having children — Ryan “knew she was feeling a deadline looming” (p. 188). There isn’t anything about what Ryan does that is problematic, but simply the way that he views Sadie — his “build-in conservatism” (p. 188), perhaps — or rather the way we are encouraged to view her as readers, I found increasingly problematic the longer I read. When we are giving contrasting views of Sadie on the same page — on the one hand, “they’d both grown up on farms in this area” (p. 189), while on the other hand, “Sadie had adjusted to rural life, especially making love under the stars” — it begins to feel like she is not a fully developed characters, but simply a ploy for Ryan, and unfortunately the end does nothing to counteract this.