By: Patrick Johnson
I suppose it’s only natural that the fantasy nerd in me enjoys speculative fiction.
After all, it draws a lot of the good elements from a genre I love and usually doesn’t
bring the hindrances with it. In particular, good speculative fiction is able to make unreal
elements real and then discuss them within the bounds of the work.
Take, for example, the story Everything Must Go by Brooke Wonders, published in Clarkesworld Magazine.
In this story, the boy (Bird) grows a pair of wings when he turns thirteen. Without
the fantastical nature of the story, these wings (Bird’s freedom, power, autonomy)
which grow as he ages would require poetical waxing in order smack the reader upside
the head with their importance. However, by bringing them in as an actuality within
the story, that elaborate discourse is replaced by a simply stated reality. The job of
deciphering the allegory left to the reader, allowing details (such as which of the many
things Bird’s wings could potentially represent is correct) up to the readers to deduce
from the content of the story as opposed to the author’s insistence.
Thus, when Bird’s sister (Paper) catches their mother (Needle) clipping Bird’s
wings late at night, the scene can play out with visceral action. That entire segment of
the story (discovering Bird’s wings are being clipped, laying a trap, discovering who is
responsible and driving them away) takes less than 200 words. None of them delve into
the implications of Needle’s actions, and only three of the sentences in that segment (a
grand total of 44 words) make even passing reference to Needle or her actions. In spite
of that, it punches with enough force to leave a reader staggering.
And, the best part is that the story is full of such moments. It is depressing and
terrifying, without needing to tell the reader how they should feel about what they’re
seeing. All it needs is to show them the actions of the story, and let them speak for