A Word Shaped Like Bones by Kris Millering
Series: Women Destroy Science Fiction! (Lightspeed #49)
Published by Skyboat Media on November 18, 2015
Genres: Horror, Science Fiction
Length: 15 hours, 11 minutes
Narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir
Buy It Here! •
The summer of 2013 was a rough one for women in science fiction. Every few weeks there was a new reminder that to a certain subset of the field, women are not welcome. There were multiple articles returning to the tired accusation that women aren’t writing “real” SF; disputes about the way the field is represented by vintage cheesecake art on the cover of a professional trade publication; the glib admonition that if women are to succeed, they should be more like Barbie, in her “quiet dignity.” For many readers, it was a very nasty surprise to discover this undercurrent running through the ocean of imaginative fiction we love.
And it just. Kept. Coming.
We got tired. We got angry. And then we came out the other side of exhaustion and anger deeply motivated to do something.
Thus the Women Destroy Science Fiction! special issue of LIGHTSPEED MAGAZINE was conceived. We did a Kickstarter campaign in early 2014 to help make the issue into a double issue; we crushed our fundraising goal in about 7 hours and ended up funding at more than 1000% of our original funding goal, with more than 2800 backers.
Because of that tremendous success, we unlocked two major stretch goals which resulted in the publication of companion volumes Women Destroy Fantasy! and Women Destroy Horror!, which are being published as issues of LIGHTSPEED’s sister publications, FANTASY and NIGHTMARE.
FROM THE EDITORS — Christie Yant, Rachel Swirsky, Wendy N. Wagner, Robyn Lupo, and Gabrielle de Cuir
Editorial, June 2014: Women Destroy Science Fiction!
ORIGINAL SHORT STORIES — edited by Christie Yant
Each to Each by Seanan McGuire – narrated by Cassandra CampbellREPRINTS — selected by Rachel Swirsky
A Word Shaped Like Bones by Kris Millering – narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir
Cuts Both Ways by Heather Clitheroe – narrated by Grover Gardner
Walking Awake by N.K. Jemisin – narrated by Bahni Turpin
The Case of the Passionless Bees by Rhonda Eikamp – narrated by Jonathan L. Howard
In the Image of Man by Gabriella Stalker– narrated by John Allen Nelson
The Unfathomable Sisterhood of Ick by Charlie Jane Anders – narrated by Cassandra Campbell
Dim Sun by Maria Dahvana Headley – narrated by Stefan Rudnicki
The Lonely Sea in the Sky by Amal El-Mohtar – narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir with Cassandra Campbell, Cassandra de Cuir, John Allen Nelson, Stefan Rudnicki, and Molly Underwood
A Burglary, Addressed By a Young Lady by Elizabeth Porter Birdsall – narrated by Judy Young
Canth by K.C. Norton – narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir
Like Daughter by Tananarive Due – narrated by Jamye Méri GrantORIGINAL FLASH FICTION — edited by Robyn Lupo
The Great Loneliness by Maria Romasco Moore – narrated by Judy Young
Love is the Plan the Plan is Death by James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon) – narrated by Stefan Rudnicki
Knapsack Poems: A Goxhat Travel Journal by Eleanor Arnason – narrated by Stefan Rudnicki
The Cost to Be Wise by Maureen F. McHugh (novella) – narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir
Salvage by Carrie Vaughn – read by Susan HanfieldNOVEL EXCERPT
A Guide to Grief by Emily Fox – read by Cassandra de Cuir
See DANGEROUS EARTH-POSSIBLES! by Tina Connolly – read by Harlan Ellison®
A Debt Repaid by Marina J. Lostetter – narrated by Jamye Méri Grant
The Sewell Home for the Temporally Displaced by Sarah Pinsker – narrated by Cassandra Campbell
#TrainFightTuesday by Vanessa Torline – narrated by Jamye Méri Grant with Cassandra de Cuir, Gabrielle de Cuir, John Allen Nelson, Molly Underwood, and Judy Young
The Hymn of Ordeal, No. 23 by Rhiannon Rasmussen – narrated by John Allen Nelson
Emoticon by Anaid Perez – narrated by Molly Underwood
The Mouths by Ellen Denham – narrated by Cassandra de Cuir
M1A by Kim Winternheimer – narrated by Judy Young
Standard Deviant by Holly Schofield – narrated by Cassandra Campbell
Getting on in Years by Cathy Humble – narrated by Stefan Rudnicki
Ro-Sham-Bot by Effie Seiberg – narrated by John Allen Nelson
Everything That Has Already Been Said by Samantha Murray – narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir
The Lies We Tell Our Children by Katherine Crighton – narrated by Cassandra Campbell
Artemis Awakening by Jane Lindskold
NONFICTION — edited by Wendy N. Wagner
Artists Showcase by Galen DaraPERSONAL ESSAYS — edited by Wendy N. Wagner
Illusion, Expectation, and World Domination Through Bake Sales by Pat Murphy
Women Remember: A Roundtable Interview by Mary Robinette Kowal
Interview: Kelly Sue DeConnick by Jennifer Willis
How to Engineer a Self-Rescuing Princess by Stina Leicht
The Status Quo Cannot Hold by Tracie Welser
Screaming Together: Making Women’s Voices Heard by Nisi Shawl
We are the Fifty Percent by Rachel SwirskyAUTHOR SPOTLIGHTS — edited by Jude Griffin With contributors Laurel Amberdine, Lee Hallison, and Sandra Odell
Science Fiction: You’re Doin’ It Wrong by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
Join Us in the Future by Marissa Lingen
Are We There Yet? by Sheila Finch
Not a Spaceship, Robot, or Zombie in Sight by Anne Charnock
Writing Among the Beginning of Women by Amy Sterling Casil
Toward a Better Future by Nancy Jane Moore
We Are the Army of Women Destroying SF by Sandra Wickham
Read SF and You’ve Got a Posse by Gail Marsella
Stomp All Over That by O. J. Cade
For the Trailblazers by Kristi Charish
Women are the Future of Science Fiction by Juliette Wade
We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle, and Slaves Narrative by Kameron Hurley (Reprint, archived at A Dribble of Ink)
Writing Stories, Wrinkling Time by Kat Howard
Where Are My SF Books? by DeAnna Knippling
Reading the Library Alphabetically by Liz Argall
Stepping Through a Portal by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam
The Wendybird by Stina Leicht
I Wanted to be the First Woman on the Moon by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley
Never Think of Yourself as Less by Helena Bell
An ABC of Kickass, or a Partial Exorcism of my TBR/TRBA* Pile by Jude Griffin
Stocking Stuffers by Anaea Lay
Breaching the Gap by Brooke Bolander
Women Who Are More Than Strong by Georgina Kamsika
A Science-Fictional Woman by Cheryl Morgan
Your Future is Out of Date by Pat Murphy
Stray Outside the Lines by E. Catherine Tobler
My Love Can Destroy by Seanan McGuire
Seanan McGuireILLUSTRATORS — art direction by Galen Dara
Charlie Jane Anders
Maria Dahvana Headley
Elizabeth Porter Birdsall
Maria Romasco Moore
Li Grabbenstetter (“A Word Shaped Like Bones,” “Each to Each,” and “Love is the Plan the Plan is Death”)
Elizabeth Leggett (“Cuts Both Ways,” “Salvage,” and “Like Daughter”)
Hillary Pearlman (“Walking Awake”)
Christine Mitzuk (“The Case of the Passionless Bees”)
Galen Dara (cover artist)
Note: The majority of the reviews for Women Destroy Science Fiction! is of the audio book. I did buy a copy of the print edition because the audio doesn’t include the Author Spotlights, the novel excerpt, the non-fiction, the personal essays and the illustrations. All reviews of those items come from the print edition. I could not get my hands on one of the limited editions so I did not read They Tell Me There Will Be No Pain by Rachael Acks.
Woooooooow! A Word Shaped Like Bones is oh so creepy! And let me just say that the narrator hit this one right out of the park! The emotion Gabrielle de Cuir put into her narration… my God! It was kinda explosive. And disgusting. And heart-wrenching.
A Word Shaped Like Bones is the story of Maureen. Maureen – a sculptor who feels unappreciated as an artist (she “sells” instead of receiving critical acclaim) – is on teeny, tiny single room spaceship (14x20x16) in route to a planet named Hippocrene. Once she arrives at Hippocrene she will deliver wonderful sculptures she created to the Hippocrenes and then…depart?
Unfortunately for Maureen, there is a dead man in the spaceship with her. O_O
The dead man sits in the corner of the chamber enclosed by spaceship on all sides. He takes up a lot of space. He has been there for three days.
Maureen fears the dead man. Not because of anything he has done. Because he is there, and she cannot make him go, no matter how much she rubs her eyes.
He is lumpy, the dead man. He puts off a faint odor of putrescence. His head lolls to the side and his eyes are open and his skin is a ghastly color now, mottled. He was a big man, before he was dead.
Maureen cannot sleep for watching him.
Maureen cannot make him go away.
Throughout Maureen’s travels to Hippocrene, she has to deal with the dead man.
She has to deal with the dead man decomposing in the 14x20x16 room with her. The entire time.
Gabrielle de Cuir made me feel like I was in that room too. I was commuting to work while reading this – and almost the entire way my face was basically frozen into a grimace of disgust. I found myself desperately gripping the steering wheel as Maureen lost gravity in her little ship…making the dead man float about. As the dead man’s body decomposed, leaving brown slimy stuff all over the tiny room. As the liquid from the dead man’s body started to cause the ship to break down.
Maureen has fed most of the dead man’s body into the recycler. The foul liquid is almost gone; when it leaked from the coveralls, things got very bad. At least the recycler, unlike almost everything else on the ship, is holding up. The air scrubbers were another story. The liquid that had once been the dead man’s body made them stop working for a little while. Maureen curled up in her little cubby of a bunk and pulled the blanket over her head and begged for the horror to stop. Then she got up and followed the spaceship’s insistent instructions about how to clear the filters she could reach.
It appears to have worked. The scrubbers are working again.
As time passed and the decomposing went on, eventually, there was nothing left of the dead man but his bones. Maureen decides to turn all of the dead man’s bones into sculptures. Beautiful sculptures that will represent the human soul…
And in order to keep from spoiling the story, I have to stop here.
I must say, the ending of A Word Shaped Like Bones shocked me. I wasn’t expecting or prepared for that ending. And when I go TO that ending…it made me rethink the entire story. The ending actually transformed the story – for me – from something creepy and horrific to something horrific and heartbreaking.
Honestly, A Word Shaped Like Bones is a great story and I am enjoying the dang anthology something fierce.