Traditional notions of gender and sexuality take a backseat in this sci-fi tale of war, conquest, violence and rape. An arrogant interstellar species that thinks nothing of wiping out a planet’s intelligent species for the sake of making colonization effortless, treats its AI, helper species and members of its own species with the same violent disregard.
Qad is an adventurer in a hermaphroditic species of adventurers and Executives. The adventurers go forth in their sentient living spaceships to find suitable planets and kill any intelligence found there for a modest reward back home. The attitude toward the self-sacrificing spaceships is patronizing, and toward the AI is even worse. The Executives hold the power in the society and use threats, violence and forced copulation [aka rape] to manipulate and debase others.
Interestingly, the adventurers and Executives are given male pronouns despite their ovipositors and ability to be impregnated. Parasitic extensions from the body that feed independently [or get re-absorbed by the body] and physically get pregnant are called little sisters. Interbreeding, sex between different members of the species, is rare as self-impregnating is the standard. This set-up begs for a feminist or queer interpretation. Mostly, it fronts the topic of coercive rape and the aftermath. It also highlights a correlation between disregard for other forms of life and disregard for members of one’s own species. Both are important topics not often written about this frankly.
This tale appears in a couple “best of” anthologies. The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 10 edited by Jonathan Strahan, I received from Netgalley. The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2016 edited by Rich Horton, I received directly from Prime Books.
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