Short Story Highlight: “Annex” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew (Thailand)

The latest issue of Clarkesworld Magazine is headlined by new Thai author Benjanun Sriduangkaew, with “Annex”:

On the eve of Samutthewi’s entry into the Costeya Hegemony, Esithu was sloughing off the shell of their birth-body. There would be speculation afterward what Esithu was born as—someone’s son, someone’s daughter? To that Esithu would always say, “I was born as I am now,” which became a stretch after Esithu obtained a second then a third body. A hardware upgrade, they liked to say. You can never have too many.

That was much later.

Esithu was a creature of solitude but, afflicted with being so new in a world so old, they found themselves craving company.

This close to the heels of conquest, sedition was a rife, busy game, and it drew Esithu as war drew soldiers. They came to it—or it came to them—in a little club on the outskirts of Vithansuthi, the city in which everything happened.

On the walls, flowers fought and devoured each other, mouth-tipped stamens tessellating in choral fury. Onstage a dancer moved in simpatico, mercury limbs shimmering silver, a body of animated liquid.

“It is said,” Esithu’s table companion began, a non-sequitur to follow a conversation they never started, “that the universe was sung into being by a divine androgyne.”

At that point Esithu was not yet acquainted with quantum theories, though even further along in life they would find said theories little more than superstition. Blunt, they asked, “Are you some sort of evangelist?”

The woman’s eyes glittered. Her sclera and irises were hidden behind compound lenses, all ruby facets. “Truth is always in need of evangelizing. Now more than ever, and I’m not talking about creation myths.”

“This is a bad climate for demagogues.”

“Indeed no; it’s never been better.”

“We lost, you realize.” Their government bent so quickly to surrender there’d hardly been casualties. Esithu had bet on that, and reaped a tidy profit against friends more patriotic.

“Our defeat is opportune. It is now that we can subvert them from within.”

Esithu snorted. Newly assimilated border planets subverted nothing except their own sense of self. Samutthewi would lap and swallow until it was as Hegemonic as the rest.

“But now is the time,” the woman insisted. “Not five years from now when we’ve grown comfortable; not ten years from now when we think back and say, ah, it used to be untidy and now that we’ve the Hegemony breathing on our neck everything is better—faster—more beautiful. Then it will be nearly impossible.”

They laughed in her face. “It is impossible now.”

A second dancer vaulted over the first, feet and fingers full of fire. – continue reading!

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