Aliette de Bodard. Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight. (Clarkesworld #100, January 2015)

clarkesworld100This print issue of Clarkesworld opens well with this story, which is available to read, and to have read to you, on the Clarkesworld website here and in a variety of other formats.

It’s set in AdB’s Universe of Xuya, which she has been steadily developing in recent years, and very helpfully has a timeline on her website which shows where the novels and stories fit in. It’s an alternate history based on China discovering the Americas before the West, and achieving global dominance (against the Aztecs) and reaching space first. Although now, what with China developing fast, and with even India showing themselves as a space power, maybe it’s not so alternate history.

The story has three sequences, each introduced by a cup of tea.

Light, pleasant green tree introduces us to Quang Tu, bereft at the funeral of his mother, Professor Duy Uyen. His sense of is loss exacerbated by the authorities having rules that the memories of his scientist mother are not to be passed to him as is the custom. Accompanying him is the avatar of the shipmind of The Tiger in the Banyan, his sister, whom their mother carried.

Wu Long tea, sweet with a hint of strength, shows us Tuyet Hoa, who is the recipient of the mem-implants, which are supposed to help her carry on the cutting-edge research that Professor Duy Uyen was leading.

And fermented dark tea accompanies The Tiger in the Banyan, as the shipmind struggles with her loss.

I read the story with the assistance of a mug of Strong Northern English tea, with milk, almost strong enough, as we say, for the spoon to stand up in. (And to be accompanied by regular exhalations followed by phrases such as ‘mmm, that’s hit the spot’ or ‘by ‘eck I needed that’).

And indeed the story does hit the spot nicely, with the accustomed oriental mannerisms, familial devotions and structures that clearly mark it out as a Xuya story.

More from this issue here.

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