Gian returns to Sea-john from the Kingdom’s wars certain that he has skills beyond killing, death and destruction. He needs to prove to himself that love is just as strong, if nor stronger, than his hate. The Summer King gives him this opportunity.
Tor.com has fast become one of the best publishers of short fiction on the internet, and its openness to a wide variety of works within the realm of “genre fiction” is admirable. Kai Ashante Wilson’s story, published last May, is especially relevant in the context of the Abyss & Apex anti-dialect piece, using as it does dialect (albeit an amalgamation of various dialects, per here) to give a sense of setting and place, and to emphasise certain elements of the story.
To tackle that first, Super Bass tends to not use dialect heavily in the narratorial voice, but almost all the dialogue is in dialect. This is slightly problematic given that the narratorial voice appears to be embracing Gian’s point of view, and perhaps the whole would have been stronger had it all been in dialect. As it is, the use of dialect reinforces that the story has a cast almost entirely of people of colour; Gian is mixed race and the only speaking character who isn’t black, as the other white characters haven’t learned the language and are spoken for by their black husband. Indeed, the application to whites who are immigrants to a black locale of images of immigrants to Western nations is rather brilliantly carried off.
The romance that the story is structured around is also well done. Super Bass doesn’t make it a Twilight-esque “romance” of abuse, nor an Eddings-like romance without any feelings, but rather Wilson very effectively draws on a number of strands – insecurity, acceptance, love, fear, the whole gamut of emotions that appear in a relationship – in order to create a love that is convincing and beautiful. He also portrays a society organised into triads as the basic unit of marriage very effectively; that the triads can be of any gender – we see two-male-one-female, three-female and various other configurations in the story – is simply accepted, and Super Bass normalises that stunningly well.
As far as plot goes, Super Bass leaves perhaps a little too much to the imagination at its close; whilst hinting around Gian being abused by the Marshal in the wars, it never really makes it clear what form that abuse was, and Wilson never quite clears up a lot of the background to the story. However, the internal plot hangs together well, as the relationship between Gian and Cianco developes and we learn more about each of them and their role in the society; it’s a very well carried off piece of writing.
Super Bass is almost exactly what I was looking for when I started looking for Queering the Genre pieces; queer, normalising that queerness, and also challenging other heirarchies of power, in this case race. An excellent story, and, wonderfully, free to read here!