Ken Liu. Arc. (Fantasy & Science Fiction, Sept/Oct 2012)

The last three stories I’ve read by Liu haven’t really grabbed me, two being more SF adventure than he normally writes. This is more like his best fiction, looking at how scientific changes will impact on individuals.

His protagonist is a woman who had her youngest child 100 years after her first child, whom she had at 16. The story follows the arc of her life, starting as a rebellious teen who falls pregnant to her boyfriend, but who decides that teen motherhood is not for her, and leaves the baby with her parents.

She’s a driven character, not entirely likeable, and Liu cleverly looks at how her working for Bodywerks, plasticizing cadavers, leads her to a form of immortality. With the technology to extend life not available to all, there are societal issues, and with the technology not able to work on her husband, there are very personal issues for her to come to terms with.

The image of her immortalizing her recently (very recently) departed husband is a strong, if chilling, one, and the story avoids (just) the sentimentality of her dealing with her son’s death of old age.

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