The Branding of Shu Mei Feng
By Amanda Clark
Apart from wanting optimistic, near future SF stories for the Shine anthology, I also wanted to have a wide range of settings for the Shine stories and — ideally — also from authors from across the world. I didn’t quite achieve the latter (the language barrier: translating is, relatively, expensive; not enough outreach and other factors), but I think I succeeded in the former.
By necessity, this means that a lot of these worldwide settings are written through the eyes of western authors. This is a part of writing the other, that is a person from culture A writing about a person from culture B. Research and feedback are an essential part of that, and it certainly helps if you’ve actually been in that particular place. Well, Amanda Clark has lived in China for several years, and I think it shows in “The Branding of Shu Mei Fen”.
Yes, there will be a story in Shine that’s also set in China, and the main reason I took that one — after the upcoming Shine competition it will be revealed which one I’m talking about — is that “The Branding of Shu Mei Feng” is mostly set after the important changes are mostly set in motion, while — “The Earth of Yunhe” — depicts how one such a ground change could be implemented.
I first met Amanda Clark in the bar at the 2008 World Fantasy in Calgary: she was jetlagged after returning from Shanghai, and she told me she would start to ferment stories from her four years in Shanghai and Beijing. “The Branding of Shu Mei Feng” is the first one, and I certainly hope that she will write more. Also, she read part of it at the World Fantasy in San José a few weeks ago, and it was great (it showed me new angles to a story I already had read several times).
Admittedly, the beginning has a strong hint of Red Barchetta and “A Nice Morning Drive” (our heroine likes to tamper with, or ‘reconfigure’ internal combustion vehicles), but that is only the kick-off. So follow Shu Mei Feng as she finds her way in a New World that is not only Brave, but simultaneously different and the same: as new policies are implemented, certain old habits die hard…
Icy liquid seeped into her eyes, her mouth, her nose, shutting off sight, sound, smell. Mei Feng felt neither Beautiful nor like a Phoenix in that moment. Her name should have been Drowned Turtle.
A calloused hand slid into her palm, soft, warm, squeezing rhythmically. Mei Feng willed herself to grip the hand, and this time she felt her fingers respond. She jerked upward, still blind, sputtering and coughing so hard she thought a lung might just come up.
“What the fuck?” She asked. The calloused hand squeezed painfully. She couldn’t hear her own voice. “I’ve gone deaf,” she added.
Light exploded around her, followed by the sound of water dripping and the earthy smell of new plantings. She twitched, gasping for one clean breath, crying out in relief when it came. She lay up to her neck under a blanket of hydroponic wool, so thick it pressed her down into the galvanized water trough jammed into her family’s shower. The blanket was connected by wires that ran over Father’s shoulders to an instrument that let out a little ping every few seconds. Continue reading