Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Water That Falls on You From Nowhere by John Chu

You know all those times you've heard someone say something along the lines of, "May God strike me dead if I'm lying"? Well, in The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere, there's a variation on that theme. The world has changed so that if you tell a lie, water falls on you, ice cold water. With little lies, it's a small amount of water; with whoppers, a deluge. Certain evasions or stretchings of the truth give you a pass on getting soaked, but it's hard to know what you can get away with and stay dry.  In this world of falling water, live Matt and his lover. And it's the holiday time, when Matt's traditional Chinese parents want him to come home, when what Matt is struggling with is if he should "come out."

What really drew me in this story was the English language vs Chinese. In Chinese, apparently, some words are genderless, so Matt has been able to tell his parents about his lover without revealing that the lover is male, not female. He feels tremendous pressure to marry and carry on his family line, yet no desire for a woman; he's found the one he wants to marry and live with forever. There were some instances of Chinese in the text, and though rough interpretations were given or alluded to in the story, I wish the author would have footnoted true translations. All those beautiful characters fascinated me.

I liked the relationships in this story, between lovers, parents and son, and even between siblings, though there was tension. It rang true to me. I liked the device of water falling with lies, and contemplate how much wetter our world would be were this to become the case. This is a story about honestly and finding the dry road between truths.  Many thanks to Tor for offering this Hugo nominated story available for free download.

One more bit which may be somewhat of a spoiler, so don't read on if you don't want to know something that could be a key element to this short story. If it doesn't matter to you, then scroll down and read away.

The thing that touched me the most in this story was something that I've long suspected and experienced with friends who are gay men: parents usually know already and are usually supportive of their son.  I know there are parents who are awful to their children when they come out, but the people I know either aren't awful, or haven't been treated as pariah by their parents. interestingly, in my limited experience, siblings can be more difficult than parents, as was the case here.  Love, honesty, and understanding can help keep that lightening bolt from striking.

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