My favorite story this month was The Failed Dianas by Monique Laban at Clarkesworld.
Diana, an intern at an off-world financial services company, returns to Earth to meet a relative she’s never met: the original Diana, who her parents disowned and cloned after she disappointed their plans for her.
There’s a lot to like about this story, from the easy characterization to their brilliant premise to the excellent escalations with the additional Dianas. Ultimately, this is a story that affirms the uniqueness of human experience in the face of societal pressure, family expectations, and individual circumstances. The Dianas are united by resistance to their awful parents, yes, but even more so they are all unique themselves, with their own lives and own talents, and that’s as important as anything else.
But the story is more than just a good concept. There is some truly excellent detail-work that I only noticed on the second read, particularly the viewpoint-Diana’s sharp scent descriptions. The author’s choice to make her protagonist drawn to perfumes and perfuming allows her to give absolutely vivid sense-descriptions which really ground the story both in the character and in the setting, particularly the contrast between the awful smells of space and the lovely smells of Diana-1’s restaurant.
And the clone rights! The first thing that stood out for me about this story, even though it’s secondary to the main themes, was the unambiguous assertion that clones are separate people, with their own desires and goals and ideas. Even though this is obviously true (identical twins are not the same person after all), Science Fiction struggles with this as a genre, often insisting that clones are “the same person” or some other such nonsense. These ideas are perfectly fine in the abstract, but as we come closer and closer to real human cloning, it’s important that we start to assert that clones are whole humans, not slaves or duplicates or organ farms. It’s notable, and good, to have stories start to address this.
The Failed Dianas is a great, enjoyable story with a lot of hidden depths. It’s well worth the read.
Some of my other favorite stories this month
My favorite feminist retelling of an Hindu myth with extra lesbian subtext: The Demon-Sage’s Daughter by Varsha Dinesh at Strange Horizons
My favorite loving, humane metaphor for intergenerational trauma and relationship baggage: A Serpent For Each Year, by Tamara Jerée at Strange Horizons