Hwarhath Stories

Eleanor Arnason. Aqueduct, $19 trade paper (392p) ISBN 978-1-61976-095-0
Arnason (A Woman of the Iron People) rewards her loyal readers with this long-awaited collection of her celebrated stories about the alien hwarhath, written from the perspective of a cultural anthropologist. Each story explores a slightly different aspect of the fictional race and its distant world. Arnason perfectly captures the dry, patient scholarly tone used in folklore translations as she tells the hwarhath’s creation stories and their version of the Adam and Eve myth. She explores in far more detail the hwarhath’s peculiar (yet recognizable) attitudes toward sex, love, and procreation across several stories featuring related characters, which craft a fascinating historical story arc. Arnason’s aliens are almost uniformly bisexual, and forbidden from engaging in heterosexual love beyond what’s needed for procreation. This behavior allows Arnason to adapt timeless folkloric tropes to her own modern, progressive, and wholly original reality, which comes alive in her precise, classically beautiful prose. Most of the stories were published separately in the 1990s, and they stand up impressively well today. Those seeking a scholarly approach to speculative fiction will devour this idiosyncratic collection. (May)
Reviewed on: 02/29/2016
Genre: Fiction
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