Day 14: “The Red Bride” by Samantha Henderson
This is a story that reminds me of Carol Emschwiller. And also a bit of Carrie.
“The Red Bride” could be any story where colonizers enslave an native population and they eventually uprise and slaughter their enslavers. This story just happens to wear SF clothing.
It starts with the air of a bedtime story told to “Twigling” – a fairy tale with perhaps too graphic than is wise (nightmares might arise) but quickly moves to something more-this is not just a story, but the story of their lives.
The Red Bride is a vengeance angel who stirs the Var into madness of slaughter to free them from the humans. She is born and reborn when needed, the complement to the male leader.
The story doesn’t start with the Bride, but with the Vallhan, a leader that is born, unknowing, when the Var have greatest need of him. He is not born a dreamer, or a gatherer, or an arbiter, as are our males, but all these things together.
There comes a time when the Vallhan has seen enough, and bears all he can bear, but he cannot act without his bride, the Red Bride, beside him.
This is where the story falls flat for me – she is inspiration without any of the special skills Vallhan has. Yeah, don’t get me started on this – it is the main sour note in the story. The bride is nothing but the figurehead, muse to the violence of war. She needn’t worry her pretty head about the actual injustice because she is emotion personified, uncontrollably so.
It is Twigling’s kindness to the Var and treatment of them as people that has earned him this reprieve (of a sort – his entire family is still dead.) The story ends with an element of hope – both that the narrator might temper the violence to humans and also that maybe this cycle will not repeat again.