Consolation Songs: Optimistic Speculative Fiction For A Time of Pandemic, edited by Iona Datt Sharma, for a baby shower gift

Consolation Songs: Optimistic Speculative Fiction For A Time of Pandemic, edited by Iona Datt Sharma (June 29, 2020), is an anthology of, as the title suggests, stories that hopeful reading. All proceeds are donated to the COVID-19 appeal being run by the UCLH Charity, the charity supporting the University College London Hospitals NHS Trust.

A co-worker is having a baby, and so we all bought baby shower gifts, to be opened in a zoom meeting next week.  When I was having baby showers, it was lovely to get all the baby stuff, but no one gave Me anything, and since this co-worker enjoys reading spec. fic., I thought a nice new book would be a lovely thing to give, along with something for the actual baby.  I had heard about Consolation Songs from Stephanie Burgis, who has a story in the anthology, and as well as supporting a good cause,  I was thinking comforting spec fic stories are just the thing one wants to read with a new born.

I read the book first, of course, to make sure it really was suitable, but very very carefully and then let it sit after wrapping it give any germs a chance to die.  I did, however, run into a problem. I liked the stories very very much (a nice mix of funny, moving, and comforting), and wanted to keep the book for myself! It is basically perfect pandemic reading, whether or not you have new born.

This is not to say that the stories are all sweetness and light; there's some darkness and underlying sadness and anger too.  But they all have hope.  Some I wanted to hug, like Seaview on Mars, by Katie Rathfelder, a story of a woman moving into a retirement community on Mars; being an old woman, who lived through years when the planet was barely habitable, she has been through a lot, and some bits of her memories made me teary.  Some stories made me grin, like Stephanie Burgis' light romantic comedy, Love, Your Flatmate, about two room-mates, stuck with each other in lockdown, one woman a human editor and the other a fey musician, who find a very mutually satisfying (romantic) solution to their conflict...It's an epistolatory story, which made it even more fun.   And then there are some that are testaments to the indominable human spirit, like This Is New Gehesran Calling, by Rebecca Fraimow, in which scattered refugees from a place that no longer exists find that it is still alive as long as they are still there to collectively remember, thanks to an underground radio station. It made me chuckle, and made me a bit teary.  

There are other great stories, but these three are my favorites!  I would so much rather have had this on hand to read when I was home with my own newborns--with my oldest, the first book I tried to read was The Hero, by Louise Le Nay.  It was supposed to be "a charming, poignant, and optimistic tale of an adolescent girl's journey of discovery set during World War I" but  I found it horribly depressing, and it  had very small type.  In my depressed desperation for soothing escape and inability to read small type (one of the fun things about that experience was having brain surgery two weeks after he was born, which fucked up my eyesight) I put it aside and pitifully reread the Xanth books, which goes to show how bad things were (there's a lot I don't find soothing about them when I'm in my right mind).  With my second baby, and type size no longer a problem, I read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which had just come out, and we all know how cheerful that is, not.

So in any event, I would much rather have had Consolation Songs.   And I would still rather have it than have given it away, but then I would have had to find some other present....and nothing else would have been as exactly the sort of book I wanted to give!  I hope she likes it.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds lovely. And how nice of you to think of giving the new mother something for herself. Thanks for the post.


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