Photo: Isaac Fitzgerald.
Alice Sola Kim’s work has appeared in or is forthcoming from McSweeney’s Quarterly, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Tin House, Lenny Letter, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and Strange Horizons, among other publications. Kim has been a MacDowell Colony Fellow and has received grants and scholarships from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Elizabeth George Foundation. She is currently working on her first novel and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Alice Sola Kim is gutsy and lithe, funny and buoyant, moving but never mawkish. Staking out new territory with charismatic ferocity, Kim shows us what playfulness and power can be found in the hybridization of genres. Her stories place her young protagonists in worlds that are sometimes a little different from ours (a residence for friendless ladies) and sometimes very different (Venus), but her understanding of her characters makes these worlds seem instantly real. Her protagonists are often trying to define themselves against the expectations of those around them, and so the stories are as much speculations about the shape a life will take as they are explorations of speculative new worlds. She is a writer of great nuance and tenderness, of mirth and mischief, who honors magic and is already a master of human idiosyncrasy.
From “We Love Deena”
Deena didn’t invite me to her birthday party, so I crashed it. Specifically, I inhabited every last person at her party. I waited until after everyone got into her apartment. I became thirty-six people. The sensation was almost too much, I could barely carry on ten conversations and one of me got a terrible nosebleed that poured out of my nostrils as suddenly and smoothly as poured wine. Somewhere else in the room, a beer bottle slipped from my hand, and rolled over on the floor. A puddle fanned out around my feet and burbled quietly to itself. Keep. It. Together.
This is the last time, I had said into the mirror at home. This time something has to happen. Maybe we can all line up. Maybe Deena will choose one of me. Maybe Deena will choose the one she might be able to love from a catalog. I think we can discuss this like adults. My chest was angry and red from repeated applications of toothpaste.
I was Vishal, one of Deena’s coworkers from the health bureau. I said to her, “You look exhausted. Is everything okay?”
She said, “I don’t know. Things haven’t been going well for me.”
“How so?” I said. Vishal’s mustache felt heavy against my lip.
Deena smiled a little, a smile that expressed only tiredness. “A lot of people have been hitting on me these days.”
“Isn’t that a good thing?” Isn’t it?
“No. It is not.” She had lost a bit of weight, hadn’t she? From behind her, I saw how the pale knobs of her vertebrae jutted out above the neck of her sweater. She said, “But if I tell you why it’s not a good thing, you’re going to think I’ve gone insane.”
“Oh, Deena,” I said. I gave her a careful pat on the back. She started to cry. I came closer to her, folded my arms around her. It’s okay, it’s okay, I said. Oh, I’m so sorry.
At that, Deena lifted her head. We had all stopped talking, stopped playing at being thirty-six different people at a party. We were thirty-six people who were all me and all loved Deena, looking at only her and wanting her and pressing ever closer.
“Oh no,” she said. “Get away.”
“I’ll be whatever you want,” we said. “See how?” She was shaking her head as though she could shake us all out of her sight.
Imagine a room full of people who love you, who adore your body and thoughts and words. I can’t even imagine such riches. Deena was lucky. We were a kicking chorus line of people who loved Deena! A battalion of soldiers who would give their lives for Deena! A synchronized swimming team who fluttered and kicked for an audience of only Deena!
Read more work from the 2016 Whiting Award winners here.
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