Fantasy Short Story Review: "The Graphology of Hemorrhage"
September 3, 2016 10:41am CST
“How fortunate you are that you had Homer to write about you. Otherwise, the same tomb would have buried your corpse and your name.” Or so the story says Alexander the Great told Achilles at his tomb. The present story has nothing to do with Achilles, Alexander the Great or even Cicero, but with a magician of the Empire, sent with two of her classmates as a punishment into the military when they could have been (should have been) living an easy life as court magicians. A fourth hanged herself. Mechanically minded, they’d accidentally been too clever for their own good and were exiled for their “brilliance.” Now the Magician Tepwe Kodai and her assistant Rao Nawong faced the Spiders, who had rebelled against the Empire. One of Kodai’s classmates had been killed in that rebellion. Empire magic had developed ways of destroying cities by harnessing the destructive powers of fire and of ice. They could command the earth to swallow a city. However, the working magician had to know the language and the writing of the area. The catch with the Spiders was their writing was based on Imperial, making the Imperial forces in the area vulnerable. And the forces weren’t going to withdraw. But Kodai was the best. She was told to come up with a workaround. And so she did. The price was she would die. This is a sad, beautiful little story. It remains understated, but not bloodless. There’s no hint of a sexual or romantic relationship between Kodai and Nawong, but there is affection and respect. Both are reserved. He tries—once—to talk her into deserting, or to think of some way to preserve her life. She demurs, telling him that’s not the answer. He carries the books and writings she keeps from the civilizations she’s destroyed, even though she can no longer read them and will never be able to read them. The civilizations have been obliterated in every sense of the word. I also liked the Asian setting and that there was no attempt to explain it. It just was. Uplifting, the story was not. Yet, I liked it. I could not find an online version of this story. _____ Title: “The Graphology of Hemorrhage” Author: Yoon Ha Lee (b. 1979) Published in: The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016 First Published: in Operation Arcana
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