Fiction Friday is a series where I talk about what I’ve been reading. Short Stories (and sometimes Novellas) are featured as in-between posts and the first Friday of the month will feature a new novel review. Today, I review What Will We Do Without Exile? by Eleanna Castroianni
Fiction Friday: What Will We Do Without Exile?
Today’s short story is What Will We Do Without Exile? By Eleanna Castroianni, as featured in Clarkesworld Magazine. You can find it here. This one is a unique take on the whole “Immigration lawyer” who helps other immigrants gain legal status. Only imagine that in space with two alien species that are humanoid in nature. While creative, it’s also a touching tale that’s sure to tug a few heartstrings for some.
So let’s begin
The story is about Nell, a lawyer hired to defend an alien refugee who is seeking asylum on a planet after her’s was destroyed by conflict. The story goes through Nell’s effort to defend her, despite the risks it would take to convince those letting her kind in to show that she’s trustworthy. However, doubt seeps into the two and the two have a dramatic turn for protection.
This story is another simple one, but it works out. It’s a situation, a moment in time where all that happens is Nell offering to defend her client and admit her into her homeworld. There’s a number of topics, no doubt inspired by the many topics of today. While I can’t speak from experience, immigration lawyers must have it rough. Having to convince the powers that be to let your client into the country and defend them from those who would deport them must be a troubling task.
I once saw a film about two Mexican immigrants fleeing to the US and trying to survive (forget what it was called, though. I watched it in school). This kind of reminded me of that, because in most cases, most of these people are fleeing a country that isn’t viable for them, and they’re seeking a better life. I won’t go any further than that, but this will be relatable to some.
I do like the simple dynamic of office conversation being the centerpiece of storytelling. No one has to die, no big action, yet this story has made something impactful just by being conversation-focused. It’s the type of storytelling that doesn’t get enough credit and this is an example of this type doing a wonderful job and providing an engaging plot. Seeing both Nell and Uruna talking about the prospect of refuge while increasing tension by having her lie to get her into the world is one that makes stories like these so excellent. Again, nothing big has to happen, but seeing simple devices work so well is what makes short stories like these excellent.
Another thing is its use of genders. Their species, Koohar, has four genders. Some of the examples given are “child-rearing female” and “child-bearing male” No doubt it’s hard to suggest more than two genders without being super creative, but seeing as we only know each other and don’t know a species with three genders, let alone four, it’s one that fuels creative minds and shows that following human structure exactly is what makes some alien species interesting.
While the world building is okay, the characters are the focus. I love this interaction and I want to see more stories that touch on sensitive subjects while still providing an enjoyable tale. I was engrossed in this world and while I understood the impact of modern-day subjects, it made me believe in this world in relation to my own. I applaud the author for that.
First and Second?
This story is notably told in a strange combination of first and second POV. The first being Nell, the second being a robot named Luciole. Honestly, this brings me back to a previous discussion of why I usually don’t care for second person. And it’s the need to make them a separate character. I felt the addition of “you” could have been left out since I felt Nell’s story was interesting enough. This is personal preference again, but I feel second POV should make the character as gender neutral as possible. It should feel like I’m the star, rather than play the role of someone else.
I do appreciate the risk by combining both POVs into something that, admittedly, seemed convincing. The “you” is a robot assistant, like Jarvis from Marvel so the gender can be anything, like Jarvis and Amazon’s Alexa, only with more personality. I did feel like an AI existing in the world, listening to my owner going through her day. This is one of the better examples of second person POV, so I’ll give it a pass.
This is the kind of story that hits close to home for some, but many will compare it to modern day trials and tribulations. A story can touch upon subjects, but I feel that this sort of message can reach a lot of people. We may have different opinions on the matter, but seeing a touching story like this is worth it to understand what some of them go through on a daily basis. Without Exile is a wonderfully told story, simple yet effective, with a powerful dynamic between two alien people who both want what’s best for the other.
While the second and first person fusion didn’t win me over, the story itself did. It’s easily one of my favorites so far, and there’s been a lot since I’ve started that it’s becoming stiff competition. If you want a simple read that’ll tug at the heartstrings, this story will do it. No matter who you are, this story will make you listen.
So what did you think? Let me know in the comments below.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.
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My paid short story: Do Not Stare Into The Eyes of a Kitsune, is now available for prepurchase. The story will be available on June 5th, 2018. I posted a preview here and will post excerpts on my social media channels.
Note: Current outlets are limited as of yesterday, but will appear when approved. Keep checking back when yours isn’t listed.