Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Movements of the Ige: Nathan's Take

I've been searching for a way to properly review short stories, as I have found the way I do novels to be unsatisfactory for shorter works.  An entire school of short story writing depends on a revelatory twist in the final sentences, making the shorter works more vulnerable to spoilers. Yet without that twist, discussing the short story becomes difficult.

Take "The Movements of the Ige" as an example.  We are introduced to an alien species reminiscent of feathered serpents fighting and dying underneath their world's sun in a mating ritual,  For the sterile males, the highest goal is to die, making the most beautiful death throes before their bodies feed the creatures who are later fed to the Ige females' eggs.  Ritual constrains the bloodshed to one day a year, and the chief of the Ar tribe, Kor, now seeks his death before his god-sun after three years of battle.  But a strange sight in the heavens interrupts the battle, and neither the Ar nor their enemies wish to fight and die.

I am tempted to leave the summary finished here as none of the surprises of "The Movements of the Ige" have been revealed.  Unfortunately, that also gives a false impression of the story.  At this point, it could be easily be mistaken for a typical fantasy, albeit one leaning more towards the strange ecologies of Sanderson's Stormlight Archive instead of the more familiar realms of Middle Earth, Westeros, or the Land of the Wheel of Time.  But the sign in the heavens is a landing spaceship, presumed to be human as the description of the egg-like ship and the single large bronze eye of its occupants are strongly evocative of the Apollo moon missions.

This week in 1971, Apollo 15 astronauts Jim Iwrin and David Scott deployed the first Lunar Roving Vehicle on the moon.

"The Movements of the Ige" is actually a first contact story from the perspective of the aliens, drawn from sword and planet tropes instead of science fiction.  Kor does not worship the newcomers as gods, nor are there ham-handed replays of the Conquistators landing in  America.  Instead, his actions are driven by his worship of the god-sun and the importance of the killing day.  It's almost as if the story is a refutation of the hoary trope that native tribes would worship starfarers as gods.  Kor does indeed find the death before the god-sun he seeks, but I will leave how for readers to discover.

Having read the four shorter stories in the collection, "The Movements of the Ige" is my favorite.  Not only was I impressed by the strangeness of the life-cycle of the Ige, Kor is alien without devolving into a Star Trek rubber nosed human clone.  That alienness resonated with me in a way that the other stories did not.  Furthermore, "The Movements of the Ige" is an examination of the science fiction standard of first contact, but, by examining it through the lens of heroic fantasy, it breathes new life into that moldy oldie.  Proper pulp entertainment, this story is, and a worthy addition to the field.

1 comment:

  1. After rereading it, I agree, this is also my favourite story. Fantasy is especially lacking in the "anthropology" department, with most of its non-human races being basically different strereotyped human cultures. As someone who believes dealing with the bizarre and the different(but potentially real) is one of the greatest potentials of fantasy & sci-fi, this story was a pleasure.