Sunday, March 04, 2012

Aaron's Story Recommendation of the Week :: Coming of Age on Barsoom by Catherynne M. Valente

The Story Recommendation of the Week is for "Coming of Age on Barsoom" by Catherynne M. Valente, from the anthology Under the Moons of Mars, edited by John Joseph Adams. Catherynne Valente is our fourth three-time SROTW recipient, joining Rachel Swirsky, Aliette de Bodard, and Samantha Henderson.

Taking advantage of renewed interest in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars books due to the John Carter movie, Under the Moons of Mars is an anthology of new stories set in the Barsoom universe. The contributors include such top-notch writers as Peter S. Beagle, Joe R. Lansdale, Theodora Goss, Tobias S. Buckell, Austin Grossman, and Garth Nix, among others. It's marketed as a book for young readers, but I think adults will enjoy it just as much, particularly adults like me, who grew up reading Edgar Rice Burroughs.

"Coming of Age on Barsoom" stands as a counterpoint to the John Carter books. From the point of view of one of John Carter's adversaries, it prompts us to wonder why we ever considered John Carter the hero of those stories, when to the Martian natives, especially the green-skinned natives, he was a conquering (and condescending) foreigner. The story is quite thought-provoking.

More importantly, like all of Catherynne Valente's work, it is beautifully written. After a brief introduction styled in the manner of Edgar Rice Burroughs, we go to the first-person narrative of Falm Rojut, Jeddak of Hanar Su, which is written in the poetic style we expect from Valente. Valente's eloquent language gives us a new perspective not only on Burroughs' Martian universe, but on life in general. Here, for instance, is a passage about Falm Rojut emerging from his egg as a child, which resonated perfectly with me, as a parent of a rebellious teenaged human:
They call to us, the mothers and fathers, they say: Be my child. Be my future. Battle me with your laughter and pinching and sneaking out to hunt the banth when you are not nearly ready, fight me with your every breath, your every kiss, while I struggle to make you grown and you struggle to die as quickly as possible, and then when I am grown old take my metal and my name and go on while I recede.
Catherynne M. Valente is a treasure to the science fiction and fantasy genre. Here's hoping she writes as much as Edgar Rice Burroughs did.

No comments: