Saturday, May 07, 2011

Aaron's Story Recommendation of the Week :: The Trojan Girl by N.K. Jemisin

Weird Tales Spring 2011The story recommendation of the week is N.K. Jemisin's "The Trojan Girl."

This is our second straight SROTW to come from the Spring 2011 issue of Weird Tales, which has held to a very high level of quality under editor-in-chief Ann VanderMeer and her excellent staff, including Mary Robinette Kowal as art director. One thing I like about the current staff's approach to Weird Tales is the diversity of stories they are publishing, including high fantasy, dark fantasy, absurdist work, even a smattering of science fiction.

"The Trojan Girl" starts out as a werewolf tale, but soon shapeshifts into a science fiction story about rogue artificial intelligences. The protagonist Meroe is the co-leader of a pack of programs, which inhabits the "Amorph," a future version of the Internet using direct brain interfaces. The story tells of their hunt for a new inhabitant of their world, whose astonishingly pure code they hope to scavenge. As the story title suggests, there is more to her code than they realize.

Jemisin's focus is on the mood of the piece, not the underlying technologies. She tells us only fleetingly of the nature of this electronic wolfpack, but it is enough to satisfy. Jemisin does a marvelous job of generating sympathy for her powerful yet childlike characters:
In the Amorph, there were times that passed for night--periods when the Amorph had an 80% or greater likelihood of stability, and they downclocked to run routine maintenance. In these times Meroe would lie close to Zoroastrian and touch her. He could not articulate what he craved, but she seemed to understand. She touched him back. Sometimes, when the craving was particularly fierce, she summoned another of their group, usually Neverwhen. They would press close to one another until their outer boundaries overlapped. All their features, all their flaws, they shared. Then and only then, wrapped in their comfort, would Meroe allow himself to shut down.

Sometimes he wondered what humans did, if and when they had similar needs.

N.K. Jemisin was a Hugo nominee last year for her short story "Non-Zero Probabilities," and is on this year's best novel ballot for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I like "The Trojan Girl" even better than those award-nominated works.

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