Monday, July 10, 2017

A Taste of Honey

Kai Ashante Wilson's A Taste of Honey is one of the 2017 Hugo nominees (for novella). It tells the story of minor noble Aqib, who lives in a city heavily formulaic in its social structure, religion, and familial obligations.  Aquib is pretty oblivious about interpersonal signals, but somehow still manages to have chemistry, and then fall in love, with a foreign soldier visiting on embassy. He is faced with a choice --- flee home with his lover, or stay and fulfill his political/family obligations?

This choice fractures the story. It is told out-of-order, with some events of the "present" (meeting, falling in love), and some an entire lifetime in the future. This does not dissipate the weight or narrative tension of his choice, because we see scenes from both possible futures. He is happy in both, and sad sometimes, and has fulfilling lives no matter what his choice --- the story definitely comes down in favor of one choice, but the fact that he finds a place for himself in both branches seems an interesting moral, and leaves some exploration to the reader.

I liked it, though in length, topics, and writerly style, I probably wouldn't have picked this for myself.

The story also managed to cram in several new-to-me words. I had expected this of China Miéville's entry (he is dictionary-trawler extraordinaire), and it was nice to see so many:

  • thew (n), "muscular strength"
  • actinic (adj), "of, relating to, resulting from, or exhibiting chemical changes produced by radiant energy, especially in the visible and ultraviolet spectrum"
  • fatidic (adj), "relating to or characterized by prophecy"
  • tiffin (n), "a light meal, especially lunch."

This story also used the word "cabochon", which is pretty neat. (See previously.)

This post's theme word is mansuetude (n), "gentleness, meekness." His fatidic thews belied the mansuetude that he grew into as he matured; his appetite meant frequent tiffins, and he was often too shy to ask for more food in the actinic and judgmental dining hall.

No comments: