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Profile Image for Petra on hiatus, really unwell.
2,457 reviews34.4k followers
April 9, 2022
Update. April 2022. A rant. Why has the title of the story been changed to a publication it was removed from? "I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter" by Isabel Fall is not a really important story, but what happened to Isabel Fall is. All the shit she suffered online, the Twitter campaigns etc, that made her check into a mental institution, for writing it, all the accusations of transphobia, that she was a right-wing, anti-trans reactionary is an important story.

What is wrong with reading the stories and views of a 'right-wing, anti-trans reactionary' (which she wasn't) anyway? Is it worse than that of a 'left-wing Marxist pro-trans activist'? Why can't the internet handle both? If Ayn Rand had been publishing now, would she have been cancelled? How are people ever to form their own opinions if only one side is ever allowed to be publicly voiced? But that's the thing with any communist philosphy, there are no two sides allowed, free speech is a tool of the 'right wing fascists'.

The author herself was transitioning so it was a unique point of view. It seems she may have reverted to her original male identity now. In any case, why is transgender positive or negative a forbidden topic, why should only one side of the story be acceptable? I don't like all this woke stuff that says I have to think like that too or at least pretend I do to avoid censure.

Did the librarian not think for one moment what effect their changing the story title to a magazine it was published in would have on people's bookshelves. No, of course they didn't. They were so consumed no doubt with their own cleverness at finding it in the magazine, the original source, and changing it. Do they go around changing all the Chekov etc short stories into the books they were originally published in? Hopefully not.

I'm not going to comment or review the content of this short story only quote what happened to the author when it was published and why they had it withdrawn from publication (but not from the Internet Archive, you can read it here I've rated it 3 star because it's quite well-written and even though it's outside my genre quite enjoyable.

Almost everyone was upset by the reaction to the Charlie Hebdo cartoon, everyone was going on about free speech that trying to suppress it and the violent reactions and the murders of the Charlie Hebdo staff, the murders in the Jewish supermarket, the violence around the world was totally unwarranted by a cartoon. Violence is not only physical it is not only murderous it is also mental and emotional and there were some in the trans community and their supporters who objected to this story to the extent of making the author self-harm and become suicidal and having to check into a psychiatric hospital
As a result of the contentious debate about her story and the personal attacks made against her, Fall entered a psychiatric hospital because of suicidal ideation,[11] and withdrew other works with similar themes in the process of publication.[11] Being still early in the process of transition, she also decided to abandon that process, telling a journalist, "If other people want to put markings on my gender-sphere and decide what I am, fine, let them. It's not worth fighting".[11] She said that she was particularly struck by comments that she must be a man because "no woman would ever write in the way she did", which she said increased her gender dysphoria.[11] (Wikipedia, if you hadn't guessed!)
The irony is that the author is herself trans, but that was not known to those who attacked her as she said she wasn't out yet.

There are a lot of very hurtful books out there books justifying racial hatred and violence, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, misogyny sexual abuse of children etc. It is better they stand, and the books criticised in reviews, the authors too, but not in a threatening way, than there is censorship.

These Twitter campaigns can be vicious with design, the modern way of attacking people emotionally, intellectually ruining their career and sometimes putting them in fear of physical harm with threats of violence and death.

Without free speech there can be no democracy, without a democracy we have no say in who will make the laws and enforce them. In one book I read the author said that there can be no freedom for trans people under capitalism. All the Marxist-Leninist governments of the world without exception have no love for the LGBGT and trans communities. Outside of most of Europe and some of the Americas there is very little tolerance for these communities. Check it yourself So I don't see the old, mid 19thC failed philosophy of Marxism, which is always a dictatorship, being any solution to this or any other problem.
Profile Image for Nataliya.
781 reviews12.4k followers
July 4, 2022
Reviews are for “The AI That Looked at the Sun” (4.5 stars), “Monster” (3.5 stars) and “Helicopter Story” (removed from the issue).

The AI That Looked at the Sun by Filip Hajdar Drnovšek Zorko - 4.5/5
“It all started with the solar flare.”
I loved this story, plain and simple. It does what it says on the tin — it tells us a story of a brand-new AI that woke up and realized that its life purpose was to look at the sun. It’s an AI on the solar off large monitoring station, after all.

It’s a beautiful and touching story about a person - not human, but a person nevertheless - who realizes its true purpose in life and takes steps to fulfill it. The desperate yearning to reach for the dream, to do what you meant to do, to metaphorically reach for the stars — how can you not feel empathy and understanding? I know I did.
“You devote your lives to pondering what purpose you have in the universe, but I knew from the start: the meaning of my life was to look at the sun.”

And that ending, this last few paragraphs, the ones meant not for us but for something bigger — those made me just smile and feel my heart swell with juuuuust a bit of emotion.
“I have spent too much time on a simple thought:
You gave me my self. Thank you.”

4.5 stars. Love it!

Monster by Naomi Kritzer — 3.5/5
“How did I ever believe that I knew you?”
A scientist is on a journey to track down an old friend - the one who back in childhood provided a much-needed kindred spirit to a nerdy outcast girl - interspersed with flashbacks showing the beginning and the heyday of friendship, and eventually a string of quite disturbing revelations.
When I check my e-mail one last time before I go to bed, I have an e-mail from a mysterious address that says, “Just like the story, sometimes sacrifice is required, Cecily, if everyone else is to survive.”

The science fiction here is quite subtle and centers around a bit of gene editing and bioengineering.

It’s overall well-written and thoughtful, and describes quite well that feeling of nostalgia and loss for close and intense childhood friendships, for people who used to be so important in your life but now are only echoes and memories. It’s quiet and contemplative, but it may be just a bit *too* subtle and subdued to create much of an impact. But it’s still a decent read, and the initial slow ramping up of the feeling that something is *very* wrong is nicely done.
“Because that is what you do when your friend is a monster. Truly a monster—not a part-time monster like a werewolf who can be contained with proper precautions, not a misunderstood monster like the Beast from the fairy tale, but a monster. You don’t defend them. You don’t deny it. You do what you have to do.”

Pet peeve: stop calling every sciencey “formula” a “serum”.

3.5 stars.

Find it free here on Clarkesworld site:


Helicopter Story by Isabel Fall — 3/5 - Hugo Awards nominee 2021:

Apparently this story was withdrawn by the author after a huge controversy, as its original title - I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter - was taken from an anti-trans meme. The author is a trans woman, and apparently she was trying to give a non-hateful hit in the search result for that expression and reclaim it. It backfired as the focus ended up all on the title, it seems, and not all those outraged by it have actually read the story, I’m given to understand - and that includes an author whose books I loved.

“We are here to degrade and destroy strategic targets in the United States of America’s war against the Pear Mesa Budget Committee.”

It’s a military science fiction that takes a serious look at being gendered as a helicopter. Weaponized gender in post apocalyptic war. Take an offensive meme and instead turn it into a clever and surreal piece of writing. No, I don’t quite *get* it. Neither gender nuances nor military SF are my forte. Yes, a lot of it goes right over my head — and maybe I’m lucky that it does. But it’s done well, whatever it is.

And it made me reflect back on Svetlana Alexievich’s War's Unwomanly Face with this quote:
“And if that is not enough to convince you that gender grows deep enough to thrive in war: when the war ended the Soviet women were punished. They went unmarried and unrespected. They were excluded from the victory parades. They had violated their gender to fight for the state and the state judged that violation worth punishment more than their heroism was worth reward.
Gender is stronger than war. It remains when all else flees.”

3 stars.

My Hugo and Nebula Awards Reading Project 2021:

Recommended by: Dennis
Profile Image for carol..
1,565 reviews8,204 followers
March 13, 2021
Read for Kritzer's story, "Monster."
A story about a nerd kid and the boy who became her friend. It ranges back and forth in time from the 80s to an unknown future (potentially now), ending in China. Thoughtful, but somehow it lacked the punch I expected from a Kritzer piece, and despite the big questions she is wrestling with, she never really shares her feelings on it.
Profile Image for Dennis.
658 reviews276 followers
December 19, 2021
Review only for Monster by Naomi Kritzer
Review only for two three of the stories in this issue.
(this review is beginning to look like a New Year’s resolution)

Monster by Naomi Kritzer
(crime / sci-fi 🧫 read January 29, 2021)

No one at the Guiyang airport speaks English.

This story had me at the first sentence. Which is probably Covid-induced. And kinda ironic now that I think about it.

Never mind.

It’s the story of a woman in search of an old high school friend. A friend that she hasn’t seen for twenty years. And one that, like her, had great potential when he was a high schooler, but never had the drive to realize it and has gone on a very different path instead.

So why is she traveling all the way to China to look for him now? Well, that’s what the initial mystery is about. So, I’m not going to spoil it.

The narrative is switching back and forth between high school life of nerdy teenagers in the eighties and a grown-up’s journey across a foreign land in the near future. Bioengineering plays an important role. But generally the SF part is rather subtle, if not superficial. Kritzer is looking at some big questions here but not exploring them deeply. It is a quiet and contemplative story that is more about a lost friendship, and also a bit about experiencing a different culture.

It’s hard to say much more, to be honest. But I think it is a well-written novelette that has a nice contemplative and slightly sad tone. I liked it, but it was just missing that little bit extra for me, I guess. I enjoyed it from start to finish without ever getting super excited about it.

3.5 stars

Can be read for free here:

I let the wonderful Kate Baker read it to me. I could listen to her voice all day.

Hugo 2021 finalist for Best Novelette.

The AI That Looked at the Sun by Filip Hajdar Drnovšek Zorko
(sci-fi 💠 read February 04, 2021)

An AI on a research station develops some human needs and feelings. Its job to monitor the sun becomes much more than just a job for it.

My obsession deepened. Even after I forgot how I’d come to know it, the fact stayed with me: a broken link in my mind that said, the humans have a place where they can see the sun. Is it any surprise I found that irresistible? You devote your lives to pondering what purpose you have in the universe, but I knew from the start: the meaning of my life was to look at the sun. Not in the way you imagined, I know—but you taught me with human words, and spoke to me with human concepts, and I wanted to see.


I liked the voice of the AI. It’s sweet, quirky, a little insecure, desperate. Desperate to see. I recommend the narration by Kate Baker which, even though not her best one, manages to add even more personality to our artificial narrator.

The ending is somewhat hard to comprehend. But maybe that’s the whole point, seeing that it is prefaced with: “Humans: you might want to stop here. This bit isn’t for you.”

If you can’t resist, though, you can read it here:

3.5 stars

The Ancestral Temple in a Box by Chen Qiufan
(sci-fi 🎁 read February 08, 2021)

A story about the eternal struggle between respecting traditions and moving forward by embracing advancements in technology. Told from the perspective of a Teochew (Chaozhou) man who is squabbling with his father about the direction the family’s gold-lacquered wood carving business should go.

The gold-lacquered wood carving (jinqi mudiao) is a traditional art of the Teochew people. In this future China the narrator is in favor of introducing robotics into the traditional handiwork. But he might not have considered all the consequences.

This story strangely left me cold and I even zoned out midway through and had to reread the last part. Strange indeed, because both the setting and the theme are interesting. It just didn’t work for me, for whatever reason.

Can be read for free here:

1.5 stars

2021 Hugo Award Finalists

Best Novel
Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
Network Effect by Martha Wells
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal

Best Novella
Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire
The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
Finna by Nino Cipri
Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark
Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi
Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

Best Novelette
Burn or the Episodic Life of Sam Wells as a Super by A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny Magazine Issue 34: May/June 2020)
I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter by Isabel Fall (Clarkesworld, January 2020)
• The Inaccessibility of Heaven by Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny Magazine Issue 35: July/August 2020)
Monster by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 160)
• The Pill by Meg Elison (from Big Girl)
Two Truths and a Lie by Sarah Pinsker (

Best Short Story
Badass Moms in the Zombie Apocalypse by Rae Carson (Uncanny Magazine Issue 32: January/February 2020)
A Guide For Working Breeds by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Made to Order: Robots and Revolution, Solaris)
Little Free Library by Naomi Kritzer (Tor. com)
The Mermaid Astronaut by Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, February 2020)
Metal Like Blood in the Dark by T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine, September/October 2020)
Open House on Haunted Hill by John Wiswell (Diabolical Plots 6/15/20)

Best Series
• The Daevabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty
• The Interdependency by John Scalzi
• The Lady Astronaut Universe by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
• October Daye by Seanan McGuire
• The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

Best Graphic Story or Comic
Die, Vol. 2: Split the Party, written by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans, letters by Clayton Cowles
Ghost-Spider, Vol. 1: Dog Days Are Over, written by Seanan McGuire, art by Takeshi Miyazawa and Rosi Kämpe
Invisible Kingdom, Vol. 2: Edge of Everything, written by G. Willow Wilson, art by Christian Ward
Monstress, Vol. 5: Warchild, written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda
Once & Future, Vol. 1: The King is Undead, written by Kieron Gillen, iIllustrated by Dan Mora, colored by Tamra Bonvillain, lettered by Ed Dukeshire
Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, written by Octavia Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy, illustrated by John Jennings
October 29, 2021
Thank you Petra for bringing this to our attention.
To quote directly from Petra's review:
"I've rated it 3 star because it's quite well-written and even though it's outside my genre, quite enjoyable."

It is available on the Internet Archive and you can read it, as I did, here .

Isabel Fall’s sci-fi story “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” drew the ire of the internet.
For those interested enough to follow up on this appalling story of "the cancel culture" at work:
Further reading:
Profile Image for Gretchen Thomas.
11 reviews1 follower
January 16, 2020
Alright frickers sit the frick down. Momma's gonna tell you some things. First off, the harassment that Isabel Fall has gotten for this from our own community is shameful. Secondly, this is a damn good story. It's beautiful in it's horror and takes a joke that has been used against us and inverted it to the point where this is our own. This, is some damn good science fiction and if I were making an anthology of trans authors I would include this story. In fact, I might set up an anthology of trans fiction just to include this. You have a problem with this, fight me you basic bitches.
Profile Image for Silvana.
1,169 reviews1,140 followers
February 6, 2021
Rating for three stories:

Naomi Kritzer's Monster (novelette rec from nerds of a feather): ****
A strong story, immersive since the first sentence. I kinda wish it's a liiitle bit longer.

Chen Qiufan's The Ancestral Temple in a Box: ***
Thought provoking though a more subtlety of its message would do the magic. It made google Teochew woodcarving, though.

And of course Isabel Fall's infamous I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter, which I read last year. **

The title sure is very catchy though I later found out there was a (derogatory) meme of it, used to disparage transgender people (the author - not a real name, was said to be a trans woman). Anyway, story/plot wise, maybe because I am not the target audience, I did not fully get it. It felt too simple as we were mostly in the head of the POV character where she (?) was philosophizing over gender. Some thoughts were well, thought-provoking but the whole action part was a bit off. Cool back story though with the post apocalyptic setting and AI stuff. All in all, combining with military SF element is appreciated but I would love to have more plot. At the end I was thinking, wait, that's it? I just got to know the character but what's the point of the action scene then? Why not just a soliloquy from the start to the end and some flashbacks in between?

This quote got me thinking though: If gender has always been a construct, then why not construct a new one? But then the title is about sexual identity. Sex = biological concept and and gender = social construct, no? I just realized there are some who believe sex is also a social construct. My head is spinning rn.
Profile Image for Mimi.
698 reviews197 followers
January 29, 2021
For various reasons, I'm not rating or reviewing this short story which caused a lot of controversy when it was first published on Clarksworld a little over a year ago and was later requested to be pulled from the magazine by the author. The title alone is not something I would want to appear on other people's feed, but the story is a necessary read for me, although not one I'd recommend unless you're really interested. If you can get past the title, it's worth a read. So I'm only marking this book as read and noting the person who recommended for record keeping purposes.

ETA: It just occurred to me that this story is a magazine publication which is considered "not a book" by Goodreads' standards (because there's no ISBN) and therefore should've been removed from the database. Yet it's still here. Which leads one to wonder why the book page is still up. I'm just wondering out loud.
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,680 reviews344 followers
February 24, 2021
Rating and review solely for Naomi Kritzer's "Monster", which is terrific. There's this nerdy girl in high school, she meets a nerdy boy and his friends. He loans her his copy of NEUROMANCER! How cool is that? After she goes to college, they lose touch, and she pretty much forgets him, until the FBI comes to call.... Past that, just read the story, OK? Hard SF, bioengineering style. Easy 5 stars, and should be on the award ballots.
11,000 words = long novelette?
On the re-read list.
Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,449 reviews473 followers
October 11, 2021
I missed the controversy because I miss everything. I have no problem understanding why people were offended by the title, that is after all, always the problem with reclamation: it's hard to know which side something is on. I find it harder to imagine that *after* reading the story anyone would think it transphobic. Not everyone is going to love anything, of course, but I thought it was effective as hell.

And yes, if they could find a way, the US military would happily weaponize gender in this way.

I sincerely hope Fall has a gloriously happy and long life, and that she won't stop publishing despite horrible people doing horrible things. But she must do as she will to protect herself. I hope very much she has strong support to help her with whatever choices she makes.

Available online in the Internet Archive:

Thanks to Petra's review for bringing this story to my attention!

Profile Image for Alex Sarll.
5,935 reviews243 followers
January 7, 2022
Trans writer chews up and spits out recurring transphobic dad joke as a fabulously angry slice of military SF, threaded through with a fascinating notion of weaponised gender that I don't 100% buy, but which I genuinely struggle to see how any good faith reader could interpret as malicious essentialism. Story is nonetheless laid into by elements of the extremely online in a classic leftist circular firing squad. Author, understandably upset, withdraws story. This is why we can't have nice things.

[I always hate when I review an individual story and then they get splurged together into a publication I have not read. But it's especially absurd here, where the story in question isn't even in later editions. I Sexually Identify As An Attack Helicopter, Isabel Fall]
Profile Image for Colton.
123 reviews
April 29, 2021
"We are propelled by disaster. We are moving swiftly."
Profile Image for Trin.
1,840 reviews564 followers
August 24, 2021
A little too talky/explainy for my tastes, but with some brilliant moments.

No one who bitched about this story and nearly ruined the author's life read a word further than the title.
Profile Image for Drew.
124 reviews12 followers
February 6, 2021
This review is for “Monster” by Naomi Kritzer. A well developed and compelling story about friendship, morality, and playing god. I’ll be looking for more by this author.
Profile Image for Mollie.
98 reviews
January 17, 2020
I obviously checked this out because of the drama surrounding it, but got so much more than I ever could have expected. I adore this, the writing is equal parts poetry and a punch in the face, it's wry and self-aware, but has the sort of weight something like this needs. Even with the technical terminology being a bit dense for me personally, I think it's a perfect choice.
It's such a fucking badass way to reclaim and destroy the transphobic language that inspired it.

I understand why this is controversial, and it's okay for anyone to not enjoy a story, but it's a shame that this blew up because of the hate surrounding it and not because it's an amazing piece of sharp, captivating trans science-fiction writing. I really hope that Isabel Fall will be able to move on from the pain of this situation, because I'm ecstatic at the prospect of reading more from her.
Profile Image for Chan Fry.
236 reviews6 followers
June 28, 2020
Thought-provoking but also fun in several ways.

[Edit: when I read this, I had no idea it was about to start a firestorm that resulted in the story being pulled. There is, apparently, a subtext in the story that went undetected by me.]

[Edit 2: Goodreads now shows my review under a magazine I've never read, but this was originally posted under a short story that now apparently no longer exists. Weird.]
Profile Image for Katje van Loon.
Author 8 books87 followers
January 16, 2020
This is a really good short story and it's such a shame that the author was harassed to the point of having it withdrawn from Clarkesworld. The story examines themes of gender, war, identity, and how in a dystopia anything that can be exploited, will be (in this case, gender by the military for tactical uses). Well-written and thought-provoking, and no, not transphobic. I hope Isabel Fall keeps writing, and does not let the vitriol flung her way by the purity police discourage her.
Profile Image for chvang.
398 reviews59 followers
October 21, 2021
The author took a meme and wrote a really good sci-fi story out of it, delving into what makes a gender and convinced me that, yeah, an attack helicopter is a gender (at least in this climate-ravaged dystopian, militarized world).

There was backlash (an understatement ((, but I'm not fully caught up on it so I'll refrain from commenting for now) and the story was removed, at the request of the author. It's archived here, if you want to read it:

Merged review:

The author took a meme and wrote a really good sci-fi story out of it, delving into what makes a gender and convinced me that, yeah, an attack helicopter is a gender (at least in this climate-ravaged dystopian, militarized world).

There was backlash (an understatement ((, but I'm not fully caught up on it so I'll refrain from commenting for now) and the story was removed, at the request of the author. It's archived here, if you want to read it:

Merged review:

Link to story:

Full review to come: (Please ignore notes below.)

About two friends and thinking you know each other, but not really. One of them does something monstrous and narrator feels responsible.


The summer after my sophomore year of college, I had a research fellowship to work with a biochemistry professor there. I’d gone to a small, highly competitive, intensely nerdy college. It felt like I’d spent my whole life up to that point as a fish out of water, leaping from jar to cup to puddle in a desperate bid to stay alive, and suddenly I’d found my way to the ocean. To water, to other fish, to the place I’d always belonged but never had been able to find. That was college, for me.


Profile Image for Roy.
386 reviews29 followers
August 7, 2021
What do you do when the first person who really was a friend uses your research to hurt people? What makes someone a monster ... and who gets to decide.

A nicely paced story about two friends, two science and sf nerds, who go different paths with respect to conformity, to science, and to friendship. Many different plays on the meaning of monster, from the light-hearted first use about the protagonist's habit of dog-earring pages in books she loves through some questions about what is unforgivable behavior. A very science fiction plot, with the classic issue of 'are you responsible for how your research gets used' ... and some surprising answers.

Well deserving of it's Hugo nomination.
Profile Image for Ron.
Author 1 book141 followers
May 3, 2021
“I’ve been dreading finding him because I’m here to turn on him. To betray him. Because that is what you do when your friend is a monster.”

Well-crafted tale of unfolding tragedy. Only peripherally science fiction.

“The FBI came first. They told me what you’d done. The CIA came second. And they wanted me to make you an offer … you could come home. There’d be no charges. They knew you were here, but they thought I’d be able to approach you.” “But instead,” he says, “You decided to kill me.”

(2021 Hugo Award novelette finalist)
Profile Image for s.
88 reviews52 followers
April 18, 2021
a necessary piece of sf polemic in a country which is set to legalize transmisogynist CSA in the name of protecting the purity of sex-segregated sports (?) and black sex-working trans women are killed day after day. but at least we can join the military!!

to the cabal of adult children who harassed the author of this story into hiding when they weren’t calling her a man - fuck all of you :)
Profile Image for Vasil Kolev.
1,051 reviews163 followers
July 5, 2021
Nice story, all in all. I don't get what the whole fuss was about, doesn't seem to be the weirdest thing I've read in SF...
Profile Image for Greekchoir.
257 reviews276 followers
March 26, 2023
Noting here because I read it for the Trans Rights Readathon (and there’s no other listing on GR)

I found “Helicoptor Story” an interesting critique of the American military and rigidity of Western perspectives on gender through a sci-fi lens. It’s well-written and imo worth reading - I hope Isabel Fall writes something again one day
Profile Image for Teleseparatist.
1,027 reviews126 followers
December 17, 2021
Read: Helicopter Story (so smart and original) and Monster (very effective, great use of interwoven chronology, thought-provoking).
Profile Image for Joseph Carrabis.
Author 36 books95 followers
December 28, 2022
I originally read this story as "I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter" in Jan 2020 when a friend brought it to my attention.
My impression then was "This is what real writing is suppose to be." The story made me think, made me feel, made me emote, made me evaluate myself and recognize my own issues, bigotries, and prejudices.
Isn't that was really good writing is suppose to do?
I knew nothing about the internet meme, nothing about the backlash, only that I would wash Isabel Fall's feet with my tears and hair while begging her to teach me how to write better, would let me study with her.
I reread the story over the past two days (27-28 Dec 2022) and still come away believing I should give up writing, I'll never be this good.
This is what good writing is suppose to be. Don't like the content? Says more about you than the content, me thinks.
If you're reading this, Ms. Fall (and if I'm using incorrect titles, please forgive my ignorance), please let me know if you're taking on students.
Thank you.
Profile Image for Pujashree.
431 reviews40 followers
August 25, 2021
I am blown away by how widely different in tone all her stories are. I am convinced her works are better in short form, where the speculative elements don't need to be the focus and the human story gets to shine bright and hot and fast.

Merged review:

Read this as part of the Hugos packet, and boy, did it get under my skin! Wasn't aware of the controversy until I tried looking for it and held off on reading up on it before reading the story. Of course, my whole being clenched from the first sentence, which was the original title of the story, a reference to transphobic rhetoric littering all the right-wing/TERF spaces of the interwebs. In conjunction with the overt Military SF theme, I had to hit the brakes hard and read up on the controversy, because I didn't want to be triggered by the content. I cautiously continued reading after determining two things: 1) the author is a transwoman, who was forced to out herself to justify the existence of this story and title, which is incredibly sad. 2) most of the backlash was from people who hadn't event read the story and were reacting to the title leading to said outing and a lot of trauma for the author. All of this warranted, in my mind, at least an actual read of the content before forming my own judgments.
Personally, as a reader and a gender-nonconforming person (I hate even having to tag that on as a qualifier, but that's what this "controversy" has wrought), having had my own journey of dysphoria and related-trauma and becoming and unbecoming, I found this piece absolutely FASCINATING. I am grateful it exists, that it made people talk about gender in this space in interesting ways, but so incredibly sad that it didn't stay limited to nuanced discussion and got eviscerated by the outrage machine of good intentions on such a surface level.
It's not without its GLARING faults. The writing and pacing could use a lot of editorial help. I often wondered why the author was even bothering with action and dialogue because it very abruptly kept digressing into social commentary and worldbuilding infodump, which was honestly where most of the interesting thought experiments were happening. Even in those parts, there were a lot of forced and false equivalencies, some of which did not sit right with me. But a lot of even that chaos lined up with what I know from mine and other people's inarticulate struggle to make things fit that don't until they do after a fashion, just enough to break the conditioned need to fit. There is so much self-reflection and vulnerability and a very rare view into the liminal states of being while becoming oneself, that I have never had such visceral connection to. What unfortunately gets lost without the proper editorial support and the kerfuffle around the rules of appropriate gendered discourses is how even this is something that can, has been and will be used by powers that need to control discourses for the greater good of capitalism and colonialism.
I want to see more from this author, and I hope they are able to overcome this unwarranted storm to attempt something as brilliant with the proper support and early beta feedback.
12 reviews6 followers
June 30, 2021
"And if that is not enough to convince you that gender grows deep enough to thrive in war: when the war ended the Soviet women [volunteer soldiers] were punished. They went unmarried and unrespected. They were excluded from the victory parades. They had violated their gender to fight for the state and the state judged that violation worth punishment more than their heroism was worth reward. Gender is stronger than war. It remains when all else flees."

"I kill for the same reason men don’t wear short skirts, the same reason I used to pluck my brows, the reason enby people are supposed to be androgynous with short hair. Are those good reasons to do something? If you say no, can you tell me you break these rules without fear or cost?"

"Some people say that there is no gender, that it is a postmodern construct, that in fact there are only man and woman and a few marginal confusions. To those people I ask: if your body-fact is enough to establish your gender, you would willingly wear bright dresses and cry at movies, wouldn’t you? You would hold hands and compliment each other on your beauty, wouldn’t you?"

"In the Applied Constructive Gender briefing, they told us that there have always been liminal genders, places that people passed through on their way to somewhere else. Who are we in those moments when we break our own rules? The straight man who sleeps with men? The woman who can’t decide if what she feels is intense admiration, or sexual attraction? Where do we go, who do we become?"

Thank you for thinking about whether it’s right. Someone needs to: maybe it's a necessary new queerness. One which pries the tool of gender back from the hands of the state and the economy and the war. I like that idea. Our aircraft is wounded in its body and in its crew. We are propelled by disaster. We are moving swiftly.
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