4 of 5 stars.
This deeply intimate tale follows the largely antiquated mating ritual of the humans on an off-world planet. Earth’s cultural anthropologists arrive to study the small village of Third Landing to capture the dying tradition from a vantage across the river. The story, however, beautifully explores the clash of small town values and big city aspirations all while feeling like a folk tale.
Daya, like her mother before her, is destined for something greater than Third Landing. It was not a surprise when Daya’s mother left for the blue city, Halfway, to find fathers for her child. The surprise was when she returned to raise Daya and later to have son Ganth from local men. Years after she could have settled into motherhood, Daya surprises everyone more, and right when space scientists are studying the provincial town, by not leaving to find fathers, but rather to stay and follow the tradition. No man would dare turn her down.
The child picks up traits of mostly the last and first man in the mating, but middle men are important, too–though some of the importance is more political than not. Daya chooses the minimal three men to mate with and makes the aphrodisiac love feast. The first mating is with her brother, Ganth, for his kindness. He is glad that she has decided to stay local. Later that evening she goes to the second man, Bakti the writer and keeper of books. He had once thought to go to the blue city but returned to where he stands out as the learned artist in a small village. Finally, at midnight so goes to the third house to mate with Latif, the handsome and wise leader and arbiter who also happens to be one of Ganth’s four fathers. Latif is known to take fathering seriously–he will truly help her and the baby, though long ago he had told her to go to the city. He doesn’t trust the artificial Earth-humans that loiter across the river.
In the morning, Daya leaves Latif’s house, but doesn’t return home . . .
Using a non-hetero-normative mating ritual helps to throw the reader into the role of the alien cultural anthropologist. This tale is recommended.
“Someday” appears in The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2015 edited by Rich Norton and published by Prime Books. It first appeared in Asimov’s, April/May 2014.
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