Strange Horizons, September 24 and October 4, 2013

Strange Horizons, September 24 and October 4, 2013

Reviewed in these issues is the two-part story:

“Red Matty” by Nisi Shawl

This story was published in two parts—the second, a 2013 fund drive bonus once the magazine reached the $10,000 mark.

The science bits of the fiction here take a back seat to the true story about camaraderie. Animals that have been modified to, among other things, speak live in community with humans. We begin in Philadelphia with Betty, a beagle getting ready to hunt rabbits. She comes across a compelling scent—the dung pile of what she soon learns is an elephant. The pachyderm, clearly intelligent, is without the antenna that would allow speech. Betty leads it back to her pack. There, community members examine the animal’s rope halter and learn that the elephant, Matilda aka Matty, was sent to them by the Philadelphia zoo. After several days, someone decides to try a horse’s antenna on Matty to let her tell her own story. When a man appears to film how Matilda is doing in her new home, and one of their members goes missing, the community investigates. Betty, traveling on foot with Matty, gets the full story of what happened to the elephant. Later Betty and one of her pack mates learn the nefarious purpose for which the man came to film Matty.

The compassion Matty shows the man at the end is at odds with what even she says she “should have done.” However, the relationship that develops between Betty and Matty is not odd at all. And the subtext is well woven into the story’s fabric.

A version of this review appears on the Tangent Online website.

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