Hugo Nominated Novelette – The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi
Posted June 29, 2013on:
This is the next part in my on-going series to read as much of the Hugo nominated material as possible. I don’t feel right about voting in a category if I’ve only read one or two items nominated, you know?
Earlier this week I reviewed the novelettes by Cat Valente and award winning Dutch author Thomas Olde Heuvelt. Today I’ll review Pat Cadigan’s The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi, and hopefully soon I’ll have a post up for the two (holy cow, two in the same category?? damn!) nominated novelettes from Seanan McGuire.
The Girl Thing Who Went Out for Sushi, by Pat Cadigan
(originally published in Edge of Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan, from Solaris Books)
What a wonderfully strange and completely out-there story! A few generations after the dangerous and sometimes involuntary “turning” procedures, Jovian space is full of sushi. That is, full of octopus and nautiluses and squid and jellyfish who used to be people. The title of the story is a pun on the slang term for going through the surgical transformation. The story is told through Arkae, who was one of the original generations of sushi. The only human on Arkae’s crew is Fry, the titular girl-thing. After sustaining an injury, Fry decides her best bet for staying out in Jovian space is to have the procedure.
Cadigan throws the reader in the deep end, with sly references to past events and lots of slang terms thrown about. For example, Jupiter is just “Big J”, and the different types of sushi have cultural terms for each other. It makes sense, I just wasn’t expecting it. I was completely hooked when I got to this portion, where Arkae is talking about the human disposition towards binary thinking:
“We let them have that their way, too, because, damn can they argue. About anything. It’s the way they’re made. Bipeds are strictly binary, it’s all they know: zero or one, yes or no, right or wrong. But once you turn, that strictly binary thinking’s the first thing to go, and fast. I never heard anyone say they miss it; I know I don’t.”
Arkae has a point. Us featherless bi-peds do enjoy “yes” or “no”, “left” or “right”. Imagine a society where we could have our cake and eat it too, where you could go left, and then five minutes later go right, where your decision could be yes and no at the same time, and no one would give you a hard time. Imagine a society where everything is fluid, and since we’re all freaky looking, none of us are freaky looking. I think I could get used to that mighty quick.
Even out in Jovian space, where the population (or at least the working class population) is mostly sushi, there’s plenty of jobs they aren’t allowed to have, plenty of places they aren’t allowed to go, too many things that are “two-stepper only” Arkae blows all that off, makes like it doesn’t matter, but it does matter. Things have changed for a marginalized society, but there’s still a long, long way to go. But Arkae’s got more to worry about than Fry’s upcoming surgery. . . the crew is finding things that shouldn’t be in Big J’s orbit, and they’ve lost things that should be there. What the heck is going on?
Although it took me a bit to get my bearings, Cadigan’s prose was an absolute joy to read. The pacing was excellent, the worldbuilding was to die for, and I loved drowning in sushi culture. The spoken slang terms weren’t too hard to figure out, but the thought processes are just completely and utterly different. Alien, but very familiar at the same time.