Seven Months Out and Two to Go by Rachel Swirsky and Trace Yulie, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Mar/Apr 2018

This novelette is a complex weave of alien fantasy and realist literature. Trace Yulie grew up on a cattle ranch and without the knowledge, she surely brought to the writing of this piece, it likely wouldn’t have come to be.

The protagonist Kate is seven months pregnant, and as you might expect given the name of this story, this is a normal human pregnancy that will last for 9 months. At the same time, many of the cows Kate owns are pregnant and dropping their calves, the descriptions of which get quite thorough. But there’s one cow, “Big Red,” is its name, seems to be ready to burst, yet she won’t go into labor.

Pretty early in the piece, Kate’s husband and father of her child is conspicuous only by his absence. As the piece goes on we learn that… oh jeez. I almost gave it away.

Anyway. Kate’s yearning for her husband mirrors some yearning of the pregnant cow, Big Red and eventually, some really strange alien stuff starts messing with the cattle and Kate. The latter pages of this piece get abstract in the way the film adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey was abstract. Time gets turned inside out to the point where I felt, as a reader, that I wasn’t sure where the past ended and the present began–or perhaps they were the same thing.

The ending didn’t quite do it for me, but this piece succeeds in a lot of ways other pieces don’t. It blends abstract fantastical scenes with intense emotion and hard realism–certainly a combination I’ve seen seldom done, one that it pulls off well. (B-)

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